Butler huddles up during a game at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs lost to Villanova for the second time this season. Jimmy Lafakis/Collegian file photo.
JOSHUA DOERING | CO-SPORTS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler men’s basketball team fell to 15-14 overall and 6-10 in Big East play with a 75-54 loss to Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center. Butler led for 13:30 in the first half but was outscored by 18 after halftime. Here are three takeaways from the Bulldogs’ third straight defeat.
1. The Bulldogs needed a primary scorer.
Butler assisted on its first five made field goals and started 6-of-9 from the field, yet still only managed 30 points in the first half because no Bulldog scored more than six points before halftime. Even when Villanova missed six of its first seven shots, the Bulldogs still never led by more than nine. Kamar Baldwin went nearly 18 minutes without getting on the scoreboard and no one picked up the slack. It also didn’t help that Nate Fowler picked up two fouls in 122 seconds.
The fact that six Bulldogs scored at least five points is irrelevant when no one reaches the 12-point mark. Scoring by committee only works when it’s used as a compliment to a primary scoring option. Butler needs Baldwin to make more than four shots or for someone else to minimize the impact of Baldwin’s tough outing. Neither happened, which allowed the Wildcats to take control of the game by the time the second half started. Three different Wildcats scored at least as many points as Paul Jorgensen, Butler’s leading scorer. That just about says it all.
2. Butler got destroyed behind the arc.
The first nine 3-point attempts in the game — four by Butler and five by Villanova — were off the mark. The Wildcats made 53 percent of their threes the rest of the way. Butler connected on five of 22. Jorgensen, Jordan Tucker and Sean McDermott missed their first 12 attempts from deep and didn’t make one until the 4:59 mark of the second half. Jorgensen and McDermott are now 2-for-20 from three in their last two games. The team as a whole is 11-of-50.
Butler might have been able to survive a rough shooting day had the Bulldogs defended the three better or gotten to the free throw line. They did neither. Butler took a total of five free throws, a minuscule amount considering how lopsided the 3-point line was. The story has been the same all season: this team is one-dimensional and incredibly reliant on the three. It’s too late to fix for the Big East Tournament but has to be the top priority in the offseason.
3. Get ready for the NIT.
Assuming the Bulldogs win one of their last two games — by no means a guarantee — and don’t win the conference tournament, Butler is almost certainly headed to the NIT. Even with two victories to close out the season, the Bulldogs still only get to eight conference wins and finish the regular season 17-14. It’s still too early to say anything with absolute certainty, but it’s becoming harder and harder to envision an at-large path to The Big Dance. Butler needed this game to keep its hopes alive.