Bryce Golden takes a shot during a game this season. The Butler men’s basketball team hosts Louisiana-Monroe to conclude nonconference play on Dec. 28. Chandler Hart / Collegian file photo.
CHRIS BROWN | SPORTS EDITOR | email@example.com
After a victory over Purdue in the Crossroads Classic helped bump them up to 12th in the weekly AP Poll, the Butler men’s basketball team will wrap up nonconference play with a home matchup against the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Here’s what you need to know as the Bulldogs take on the Warhawks in their first game at Hinkle in two weeks:
Who: No. 12 Butler (11-1) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (4-6)
When: Saturday, Dec. 28, 4 p.m. EST
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
How to Watch/Listen: FS1, 93.1FM
- Louisiana-Monroe is led by a strong starting backcourt.
Guards Michael Ertel and JD Williams form a strong scoring duo for the Warhawks. Ertel, a junior from Indianapolis, leads the team with 16.7 points per game, and has scored double-digit points in every one of the team’s 10 games this season, topping 20 points four times. Williams, a senior, is the team’s leading rebounder with 5.9 boards per game and is second with 16 points per contest.
Neither is a prolific perimeter shooter, but both are shooting just over 36 percent from beyond the arc and take a relatively high volume of shots. The duo has combined for nearly 33 points per game and just over 50% of Louisiana-Monroe’s points this season. Generally speaking, as Ertel and Williams have gone, the team has gone this season.
- But a lack of scoring depth and versatility beyond those two has hurt the Warhawks, particularly of late.
Last season, Louisiana-Monroe boasted four double-digit scorers, yet finished 9-9 in Sun Belt play. This season, after starting 4-2, the Warhawks are now in the midst of a four-game skid, dropping their first two conference games by a combined four points. Much of the team’s struggles can be attributed to the team’s lack of scoring depth behind Ertel and Williams, as no other player on the team is averaging 10 points per game, and only one other player, Jalen Hodge, is averaging more than six points per contest.
It’s also worth noting that the team’s top three scorers are all guards ranging between 6-foot, 1-inch and 6-foot, 4-inches in height. After those three, Louisiana-Monroe’s top scorer is 6-foot, 7-inch Tyree White, who’s averaging just six points per game. This is simply not a team that relies on getting much scoring from its bigs.
Aside from Ertel and Williams, only Hodge has scored 15+ points in a game, a feat he’s accomplished twice. For comparison, six Butler players have scored 15+ points in a game this season. Louisiana-Monroe hasn’t really shown the ability to adjust if either or both of those two is having a down game. Overall, the recipe for limiting the Warhawks is pretty simple: slow down Ertel and Williams as much as possible.
- This is the last chance for Butler to mix and match in a lower pressure environment before conference play.
Louisiana-Monroe is quite simply the worst opponent Butler will face the rest of the regular season. After this game, the Bulldogs will not be eased into Big East action, with a road contest at a St. John’s team coming off a win over then-16th ranked Arizona first on the conference schedule.
This is the last chance LaVall Jordan will have to mix-and-match lineups and work in bench pieces before the games start taking on a different level of meaning. This matchup serves as another opportunity to see how Derrik Smits fits into the rotation with Bryce Nze and Bryce Golden and to gauge what role Khalif Battle could play throughout conference play.
Despite an 11-1 record, Butler clearly believes its best play is yet to come, and is still in search of a full 40-minute effort. This game is the perfect opportunity for nearly every player on the roster to see action and work to put together that full, 40-minute effort, and enter Big East play fully healthy.