Butler vs. Seton Hall: Beyond the box score

Myles Tate maneuvers around a ball screen in a game earlier this season. The freshman guard poured in a career-high 22 points in the 68-60 loss at Seton Hall on Jan. 2. Photo by Zach Bolinger.

DREW SANDIFER | SPORTS EDITOR | dsandife@butler.edu

In the early going of the second half, Coach LaVall Jordan’s group looked drained and uninspired. Myles Tate was practically carrying the team by himself while the Bulldogs endured through yet another late first half scoring drought. The team had been on the eastern seaboard through the new year and lost another key contributor, JaKobe Coles, due to injury along the way.

Seton Hall went on a 26-7 run through the final ten minutes of the first half and opening minute of the second half to turn a promising Butler start to take a dominating lead. Or so it seemed. 

At the end of the day, the Butler men’s basketball team fell to Seton Hall, 68-60, to fall to 2-5 on the season, the team’s worst start in nearly 30 years. However, Myles Tate enjoyed a breakout game scoring 22 points and had a shot to take a lead late in the second half before the Pirates pulled away late in the end. We go beyond the box score as the Bulldogs leave Newark:

1. Welcome to your breakout, Myles Tate

With the loss of Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott, it was unclear who would take over as the go-to player for Coach Jordan and staff. Through seven games, we still may not have a definitive one player as the answer, but a mix of multiple student-athletes. Coincidentally enough, it hasn’t been any of the returners from last year’s team or a newcomer with Power 5 experience, but freshmen. Tonight was Myles Tate’s day to shine as the freshmen guard posted a career-high 22 points with five 3-pointers.

Tate started his impressive game with two unbelievably deep 3-pointers and continued his impressive game throughout, adding five assists along the way. For Butler, it’s been a new player taking their turn as the star of the show. Against Southern Illinois, it was Chuck Harris with a team-high 22 points; in the win against Providence, it was Coles who led the way with 14. Butler has arguably been a one-man show over the past five years, with no mystery that Kelan Martin or Kamar Baldwin was the key to a Bulldog win. Moving forward, we still aren’t sure if there is one player above the rest with this group, and that is what should excite Butler fans moving forward about this team.

2. Butler’s frontcourt duo has struggled through seven games

With the mass departure of scoring and experience from last year’s top 25 team, it was the returning frontcourt starters in Bryce Nze and Bryce Golden who were expected to breakout in 2020-21. Unfortunately for the Bryce Bros, neither has lived up to their stellar play at the beginning of their special campaigns a season ago. Nze scored just five points off 2-of-7 shooting against Seton Hall. This inefficiency is on par with this season so far for the redshirt senior as he is shooting just 47 percent on 2-pointers this year, a major dropoff from his nearly 63 percent clip from a year ago. 

Golden scored nine points off 4-of-9 shooting from the field, which is actually an improvement from his gaudy 38 percent shooting from the field heading into this showdown in Newark. For Golden, his struggles came in other aspects of the game. The junior center grabbed just three rebounds contending with the Pirate bigs, while coughing up a team-high four turnovers and committing four fouls. While expectations for this year are different from last, the team would greatly benefit from a return to form for their regular 4 and 5.

3. Copy and paste: Butler’s future is blindingly bright

I feel like this is a point in each of the previous six Beyond the Box Scores so far this season, but it must continue to be said as the team proves it. This Butler team has a bright future that may predate any it has seen before. Coming into Newark off multiple layover days on the east coast, the Bulldogs were not in an ideal position to compete with one of the best teams in the Big East. Aaron Thompson, Christian David, JaKobe Coles, Scooby Johnson, Bo Hodges. That five would make a hell of a starting five for most NCAA teams around the country, but this is a list of all the players out for Butler at this point in the season. To think that the Bulldogs went toe-to-toe with a likely No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament from a season ago is remarkable. The Butler program and Coach Jordan won’t accept moral victories or excuses, but the performances by these young Dawgs given the cards they’ve been dealt is an incredible sign of future success for this group. 

At 2-5 overall and near the bottom of the Big East, it may be difficult at times to face the realities of this year. With the most challenging league games left to come, Butler’s overall record may get worse before it gets better. However, as we’ve seen from the national college basketball landscape, experience is the currency in this sport. Look at Duke and Kentucky this year. While Butler has faced similar challenges as those programs, they are among the best in the country at developing their players across their four years. And these freshmen has more talent than nearly any in Butler history.

Final Thought

Among the top concerns coming into this season for the Butler Bulldogs was their inconsistency in knocking down 3-pointers with any type of efficiency. On Saturday, Butler connected on 50 percent of their treys on an impressive 11-for-22 shooting from deep. With young and budding stars driving and kicking to capable shooters, those preseason concerns have largely shushed.

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