Bryce Golden takes a shot during a game this season. Golden finished with 17 points, just one shy of his career high, at Seton Hall on Feb. 19. Chandler Hart / Collegian file photo.
JOSH MULLENIX | SPORTS EDITOR | email@example.com
The Butler men’s basketball team was 0-of-7 in the second half from deep with 1:04 left. They were down by five, 68-63.
Then they were 1-of-8 thanks to Jordan Tucker. Then, they were 2-of-9 thanks to Sean McDermott. With 10 seconds left, McDermott made yet another three. 3-of-10.
At this point, the score is 72-72 and Seton Hall has the ball. Quincy McKnight misses a jumper leaving 0.6 seconds on the clock. On an inbounds play, Sandro Mamukelashvili — who finished with 15 points — takes a lob on the inbounds and lays it in as time expires.
Ball game. 74-72. The Bulldogs are now 19-8 overall and 7-7 in Big East play and they are losers in three of their last four.
Butler had four players in double figures led by 20 points, six assists and three rebounds from Kamar Baldwin. Aaron Thompson had 12 points and three assists in his return to the starting lineup.
The Pirates got all but six points from their starting five, but their starting five was enough to escape with a thrilling victory in a game that was back and forth for the last five minutes. We go beyond the box score.
1. Bryce Golden was so good in this one — almost great.
Bryce Golden finished with 17 points — one short of a career high — and six rebounds on 6-of-11 from the field. Golden was huge, specifically in the first half, because he was able to pull Romaro Gill away from the basket. Golden’s first seven points were a pair of mid-range jumpers in the pick-and-roll and a three from the top of the key.
Gill’s size is much more impactful when he’s able to camp out under the basket and protect the rim. He’s not great at guarding ball screens especially when his man is popping out for a perimeter shot rather than rolling to the front of the rim. Baldwin and Thompson were able to get to the front of the rim and, in some cases, make some acrobatic shots that probably would not have been possible if Gill was camping under the basket.
We’ve seen Golden’s abilities to stretch the floor and that’s why he and Bryce Nze fit so well together on the offensive end.
If only he could stay on the floor.
Golden picked up his second foul late in the first half — he was also issued a technical — and then picked up his third foul with more than 18 minutes left in the second half. As a result, he only played 10 second-half minutes and fouled out with over two minutes left. When he’s playing that well, he must find a way to stay on the floor especially in crunch time minutes. He was very good in this game, but he can’t be great if he’s not on the floor late in games.
2. The Bulldogs weren’t able to control the glass.
To be fair, Nze and Sean McDermott combined for 16 rebounds, but nobody else had more than three. The Pirates won the rebounding battle 32-25 and had nine offensive rebounds resulting in 15 second chance points.
Tonight, it wasn’t just Gill giving the Bulldogs trouble on the glass — Gill was mostly contained for the majority of the game. All five Seton Hall starters had at least two rebounds and three players had at least six.
Getting 16 rebounds from two players is great, but when Golden isn’t getting any rebounds and Tucker gets just one rebound in 16 minutes those 16 rebounds can get lost in the shuffle and overpowered by opposing teams on the glass.
On multiple occasions, the Bulldogs played great defense for more than 30 seconds only to give up a pair of offensive rebounds and a bucket for the Pirates.
When the trifecta isn’t falling for the majority of the game, Butler couldn’t afford to give up an advantage on the boards even though they were almost able to overcome it.
3. Butler looked more like themselves in this one.
To finish on a more positive note, the Bulldogs looked closer to themselves in this one against a top 25 team on the road. Butler’s halfcourt defense was solid especially in the first half when the Pirates knocked down just 33% of their field goals. Myles Powell had only 16 points on 15 shots, holding him to that kind of numbers is a win for any defense.
Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson were both solid. Thompson was attacking — he took 11 shots — scoring 12 points due in large part to Seton Hall’s refusal to guard his floater in the lane. He also dished out three assists and did the other things he does for this Butler team. Meanwhile, Baldwin had 20 points, took over at times in the second half and also dished out six assists while shooting better than 50% from the floor.
Sean McDermott shot 50% from the floor and knocked down three trifectas and pulled down six rebounds like he seems to do every night. Golden and Nze were solid on the interior — and we already talked about Golden’s performance.
Due to the injuries of specifically Christian David, Butler won’t ever be quite what they were early in the season, but they had a lot of guys show up on the road against arguably the best team in the Big East.
Jordan Tucker got hit in the mouth by an elbow and lost at least part of his tooth. Play was stopped, not to attend to Tucker, per se, but to locate his tooth. Meanwhile, Tucker just stuck a piece of gauze in his mouth and never actually left the game. Respect.