Butler huddles during a game this season. The Bulldogs fell to Creighton on the road 81-59 on Feb. 23. Xan Korman / Collegian file photo.
CHRIS BROWN | SPORTS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler men’s basketball team saw its two most important players exit with injuries and lost by its largest margin of the season, 22 points, as it fell on the road to Creighton 81-59 on Feb. 23.
The Bulldogs are now 7-8 in Big East play and 19-9 overall.
Here’s a look at some of the key storylines, stats and notes from the loss:
Butler was outplayed in the first half, plain and simple. Thirteen minutes into the first half, Creighton led 23-19. With Kamar Baldwin on the bench with an ankle injury and Bryce Nze already in foul trouble, the Bulldogs were outscored 17-2 in the final 6:15 of the half. The Bulldogs didn’t knock down a field goal for the final seven minutes, and Butler players not named Baldwin or Nze finished the first half 3-of-14 from the field.
Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson both exited due to injury. Baldwin injured his ankle on a play with 2:43 remaining in the first half, and the team announced at the beginning of the second half that he would not return. It’s not clear if the status of the game played any role in Baldwin not returning. Then, with just under three minutes remaining in the second half, Thompson departed after reinjuring his left wrist. The status of Butler’s two starting guards moving forward is unclear.
Without Baldwin, Butler’s offense was completely lost in the second half. After leading by 19 at halftime, Creighton went on a 19-3 run to begin the second half, and the Bulldogs were never even able to make a noticeable dent in the Bluejays lead until the final moments of the game. Until the final 1:30 of the game, no Butler player had converted more than two field goals in the second half.
The Bluejays, one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, dominated from beyond the arc. At Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 4, the Bulldogs held Creighton to just 4-of-22 from beyond the arc. On their home court, the Bluejays finished with a season high 15 triples on 26 attempts. Marcus Zegarowski was a perfect 7-of-7 from deep, while Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock both knocked down three 3-pointers and two other players had one each. Over its last six games, Butler opponents are shooting exactly 50% from beyond the arc.
The Bulldogs’ loss was their fifth straight at Creighton. Butler hasn’t won on the Bluejays’ home court since a 58-56 victory on Feb. 16, 2015. Creighton now leads the all-time series between these two teams 12-9.
Henry Baddley scored 10 second half points – seven coming in the final five minutes – to lead Butler with 13 points. That’s the lowest total to lead the Bulldogs in a Big East game this season. Sean McDermott finished with 10 points and no other Butler player finished in double figures.
Turnovers plagued the Bulldogs again. Despite entering this game with the 10th-best turnover mark in the country, Butler has had some rough games controlling the basketball. The Bulldogs coughed up the basketball nine times in the first 20 minutes of this game and another seven times in the second. They’ve now had six conference games with 15 or more turnovers.
After dropping three consecutive games for the second time this season, Butler is under .500 in Big East play for the first time this year. The Bulldogs now sit alone at sixth in the conference with just three regular season games left on the schedule. The team directly below them in the standings, Xavier, hosts the Bulldogs in just over two weeks. Butler will need to take care of business to finish out the season to avoid playing in the first round of the Big East Tournament.
Up next: The Bulldogs will have nearly a week off from game action before hosting the DePaul Blue Demons on Saturday, Feb. 29. Butler fell to DePaul on the road 79-66 on Jan. 18 in one of the Blue Demons’ just two conference victories to date. The Bulldogs got off to a slow start offensively, turned the ball over 17 times and sent DePaul to the charity stripe for 32 free throws. The Blue Demons, who entered the game shooting 27% from beyond the arc in conference play, knocked down 10 of their 17 3-point shots. DePaul lost eight straight games following that contest but is coming off a 74-68 home win over Georgetown. The Blue Demons play at Xavier on Feb. 25 before traveling to Indianapolis.