Bryce Nze drives to the basket during a game this season. Nze scored 14 points in Butler’s loss at Marquette on Feb. 9. Chandler Hart / Collegian file photo.
CHRIS BROWN | SPORTS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
Following its buzzer-beater win over Villanova on Feb. 5, the Butler men’s basketball team was looking to build off that momentum with a road victory against Marquette. Instead, the Bulldogs had what was amongst their worst offensive performances of the season, falling 76-57 in Milwaukee on Feb. 9.
Butler is now 18-6 overall and 6-5 in Big East play, four games back of conference-leading Seton Hall. Here’s a look at some of the key storylines, stats and notes from the loss:
Marquette has now won three of the last four games between these two teams. Butler had a five-game winning streak against the Golden Eagles from March 2016 through the end of the 2018 season. Marquette swept the season series last year before this year’s split.
After a strong start offensively, Butler’s offense fell flat, while Marquette just kept making shots. At the first half under-12 media timeout, the Bulldogs led the Golden Eagles 15-14 thanks to a 7-of-14 start from the field. Bryce Nze scored six points in the opening minutes while Jordan Tucker contributed five points off the bench. From that point on, though, Marquette outscored Butler 62-42. There were many factors at play in this, including that Marquette shot 46% from beyond the arc while the Bulldogs shot just 20%. And while Butler turned the ball over a reasonable 10 times, Marquette turned those into 16 points.
The Bulldogs’ defense wasn’t horrible, but the Golden Eagles did get scoring from a variety of places. The first thing to know is that Butler held Markus Howard, the nation’s leading scorer, to just 17 points, his lowest total in Big East play this season. It was certainly not an explosive performance from Howard that won this game for Marquette. After shooting 45% in the first half, the Golden Eagles shot just over 40% in the final 20 minutes. In addition to Butler’s bad offensive game, Marquette’s scoring depth proved to be another key factor. Three Golden Eagles – Howard, Brendan Bailey and Koby McEwen – finished in double figures, while another two players finished with eight-plus points as well.
Bryce Nze and Kamar Baldwin had good games offensively, but no other Butler player could get in any rhythm. This really sums it up: Nze and Baldwin combined for 37 points on 16-of-25 – 64% – from the field. The rest of the Bulldogs: 20 points on 7-of-32 – 22% – from the field. No other Butler player besides those two finished with more than seven points. Against the best scoring offense in the Big East, that’s simply not going to cut it.
It was a rough day for Sean McDermott. For the first time this season, the redshirt senior finished a game without a made field goal. McDermott, who had been averaging 18 points per game in Butler’s last four contests, finished 0-of-5 from the field, including 0-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Free throws were another significant factor in this game. Butler fans were clearly not happy with the officiating in this game. Regardless of whether you feel it was warranted or not, there certainly was an imbalance in the number of fouls called. The Golden Eagles took 28 shots from the free-throw line, compared to Butler’s eight. Marquette outscored Butler from the charity stripe 21-7.
The Bulldogs’ 57 points were the fewest they’ve scored in Big East play and their second-lowest total all season. Butler’s previous conference low mark was 60 points at St. John’s on Dec. 31. The Bulldogs season-low point total is 52 at Baylor on Dec. 10.
Marquette’s 19-point victory marks Butler’s largest margin of defeat this season. The Bulldogs’ previous worst mark was a 15-point loss to Villanova on Jan. 21.
Up next: The Bulldogs will return to Indianapolis to take on Xavier on Wednesday, Feb. 12 in the first of two straight home games. The Musketeers, 16-8 overall, are 5-6 in conference play, but are on a three-game winning streak with victories over Seton Hall, DePaul and Providence. Butler defeated Xavier 71-66 at home in the two teams’ last matchup, but the Musketeers had won four straight against the Bulldogs prior to that. Xavier is 48th at KenPom and 45th in the NET rankings.