Butler vs. Villanova: Quick hits

Kamar Baldwin brings the ball down the court during a game this season. Baldwin scored a game-high 21 points in Butler’s 76-61 loss at Villanova on Jan. 21. Chandler Hart / Collegian file photo.

CHRIS BROWN | SPORTS EDITOR | cbbrown@butler.edu

The 13th-ranked Butler men’s basketball team fell to No. 9 Villanova 76-61 on the road on Jan. 21. After starting Big East play 3-0, the Bulldogs have now dropped three straight games in conference play, and are now 15-4 overall on the season.

Butler was able to correct a few of the troubling trends from the last few games, while others still remained. Here’s a look at some of the key storylines, stats, and notes from the loss:

Villanova’s victory extended the Wildcats’ winning streak against the Bulldogs to five games. Four of those five games have been decided by double digits.

Butler players not named Kamar Baldwin struggled to find the basket. After scoring just five points on 2-of-9 from the field in the first half, Baldwin was much more efficient in the second half, tallying 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting to finish with a game-high 21 points. Aside from Baldwin, no other Bulldog scored more than 11 points. On the flip side, five Wildcats finished with 12 or more points. 

Sean McDermott had a really rough game. The redshirt junior missed each of his first 10 shots, and finished 1-of-11 from the field, including 0-of-7 on threes, with two points and nine rebounds. After shooting nearly 48% from beyond the arc in nonconference play, McDermott is now shooting just 25% on 3-point shots in Big East action.

Butler’s defense, one of the best in the country for most of the season, continued recent struggles against Villanova. The Wildcats’ 76 points marked the third straight game in which the Bulldogs surrendered 70+ points to their opponent. That being said, Villanova shot just 38% from the field in this game, tied for its third-worst mark in a game this season. Which leads into this…

Fouls continued to be a major issue. The Bulldogs sent Villanova to the charity stripe for 23 free throws, of which the Wildcats knocked down 21. Over the Bulldogs’ three-game losing streak, opponents have scored just shy of 30% of their points from the free-throw line. In this stretch, Butler has far too often been fouling jump shooters and sticking an arm or leg in for sloppy fouls when late to a spot or losing a man. It’s a trend that simply has to change for this team to get back on track.

The Bulldogs lost the battle on the boards for the first time since Dec. 10 and just the third time this season. Villanova out-rebounded Butler by six, 43-37. Entering the game, the Bulldogs had out-rebounded 15 of their 18 opponents this season after just 10 of 33 last season. The last team to win the battle on the boards against Butler was Baylor, which held a one-rebound advantage on Dec. 10 in the Bulldogs’ first loss of the season.

Butler turned the ball over a season-low five times, a positive on a rough night. Turnovers have been a significant problem in recent games for the Bulldogs. They committed 17 or more of them against St. John’s, Providence and DePaul. Against Villanova, Bryce Golden had two, but no other Butler player had more than one. Turnovers have played a large role in the Bulldogs’ recent Big East struggles, but that wasn’t the reason they lost to the Wildcats.

Christian David’s status is unclear after a scary-looking knee injury. The junior forward went down on the court with an apparent left knee injury midway through the first half. He was tended to on the court by the Butler trainer and required assistance walking off the court. There was no immediate update on his status following the game.

Up next: The Bulldogs will return home to host Marquette at 9 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24. The Golden Eagles, who take on St. John’s at home Tuesday night, entered Jan. 21 with a 13-5 overall record and 3-3 mark in Big East play. Marquette defeated Butler in both of their matchups last season. The Golden Eagles started the day 30th in the NET rankings, 32nd at KenPom and received two votes in the most recent AP Top 25 poll.

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