Butler vs. Houston: Beyond the box score

Guards Jair Bolden, 52, and Chuck Harris, 3, stand at halfcourt during a game against Michigan State on Nov. 17. Photo taken by Francie Wilson.

KOBE MOSLEY | SPORTS EDITOR | kmosley@butler.edu

The Butler men’s basketball team drops to 3-2 on the season following a 70-52 loss to the No. 12 Houston Cougars. This was their first game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, which is being held in Las Vegas, Nevada this year. It was another tough night for the Bulldogs offensively, as they shot 37% from the floor on 15 of 41 attempts. This is the third game this season that Butler failed to have 20 made field goals — also failing to do so against IUPUI and Michigan State.

Graduate student Jair Bolden led the team in scoring with 16 points — with 15 in the first half and Butler’s first 11 of the game. Forward Ty Groce added 10 points and seven rebounds in his first Butler start, replacing the injured Bryce Nze. Jayden Taylor had a rough outing, scoring nine points but also committing five turnovers. Aaron Thompson ended with five points, four rebounds and six assists. Guard Chuck Harris struggled against a swarming Houston defense, scoring only three points. 

In a lopsided affair where Houston led for nearly 39 out of the 40 minutes of play, there were few positives. Let’s go beyond the score on a game that the Bulldogs would like to forget.

 

Butler offense misses Nze

Right out of the gate, it was clear that the Butler offense was missing Nze’s presence. Houston opened the game on a 17-0 run, and from then on Butler couldn’t seem to overcome the large deficit. 

Without Nze, Butler struggled to get anything going inside — scoring just 12 points in the paint. On the flip side, the Dawgs couldn’t stop the Cougars from scoring in the paint. They gave up 36 points in the paint, including five dunks.

Bolden was the only thing keeping Butler somewhat in the game, hitting five of his first seven shots and scoring 15 of Butler’s 20 first-half points. However, Houston made it their mission to stop him in the second half, as he only scored one point the rest of the game.

The Bulldogs’ offense looked stagnant throughout the game. With no outlet in the paint, Butler’s offense was reduced to a bunch of ball-screens that turned into a lot of dribbling one-on-one before a contested jumper was attempted. This led to either a missed shot or turnover far too often.

 

Give credit to a talented Houston team

With or without Nze on the court today, the Bulldogs were simply outmatched. The Houston Cougars — who made a trip to the Final Four last season — put on full display how good they can be when they play their best defensively and offensively. They are ranked 12th in the country for a reason.

The Houston defense, touted as one of the best in the nation, is as advertised. The Cougars forced 20 turnovers — two of which were shot clock violations — and recorded 11 steals and four blocks. One thing that Butler did do well though, was rebound. While the Cougars had 28 boards, the Bulldogs were close behind with 26 of their own.

What set Houston apart in this game was their ability to knock down their shots. Senior Fabian White Jr. led the way for the Cougars with 21 points, as the team shot a combined 51% from the field.

 

What to expect going forward

The good thing about playing in the Maui Invitational is that the Dawgs have a chance to wash out the bad taste of this loss tomorrow against Texas A&M. Butler will look to shoot the ball much better than they have as of late, starting with getting Chuck Harris going. It is safe to say that Nze is doubtful at best for tomorrow’s game, meaning that Harris will need to step up as an option for the Dawgs when they need a bucket.

Also with Nze’s injury, it has left a void that has been filled with Groce, junior John-Michael Mulloy and freshman D.J. Hughes. They will be important in defending opposing bigs and making up for the loss of rebounding that the Bulldogs will experience until Nze returns. Senior Bryce Golden — who has scored only one point in the last three games — will also need to be more aggressive in the paint.

The Dawgs take on the Texas A&M Aggies in the consolation bracket tomorrow, Nov. 23, at 2:30 p.m. EST on ESPN2.

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