Butler at No. 25 UConn: What you need to know

The Bulldogs are 0-3 all-time against the Huskies. Their last meeting was a 63-51 loss in Hartford on Jan. 26, 2021. Photo by Francie Wilson.

KOBE MOSLEY | SPORTS EDITOR | kmosley@butler.edu

After what was quite frankly an embarrassing loss to Villanova on Jan. 16, the Butler men’s basketball team is on the road again, aiming to reach .500 in conference play against the University of Connecticut Huskies. The Bulldogs have dropped their last two games against ranked conference opponents and it won’t get easier against a Huskies team that is 3-0 all-time against them.

The Villanova game brought out all kinds of flaws on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs and they will need to tighten up for this matchup. The offense has to maximize its opportunities in this game and the defense must be more sound, both in the paint and on the perimeter. UConn has a myriad of weapons to throw the Bulldogs’ way, led by graduate student RJ Cole and reigning Big East Player of the Week Adama Sanogo. Keeping these two at bay will be one of many objectives needed to pull off an upset tonight.

Here’s what you need to know ahead to the first of back-to-back games against the Huskies.

Who: Butler at No. 25 Connecticut

When: Jan. 18, 7 p.m.

Where: XL Center

How to watch/listen: FS1/ WXNT 1430AM

 

Addressing the defense

There’s no way around the fact that the defense has been lacking — to say the least — in the Bulldogs’ last four games. In that span, Butler has given up an average of 74.5 points to its opponents, who are shooting 47% from the field. For comparison, Butler is shooting just 40% from the field in those games. Prior to their game against Seton Hall, Butler’s defense ranked 25th in the nation in points allowed. Now, they have dropped out of the top 50.

Inserting Ty Groce and Bo Hodges back to the lineup has added much-needed length and athleticism back on the court, and they will need to help the Bryces keep Sanogo and the Huskies out of the paint. If not, UConn could easily score 36 points in the paint again like they did in their last game against St. John’s.

 

Scouting report on the Huskies

The two players who have already been mentioned — RJ Cole and Adama Sanogo — will more than likely be the defensive keys for Butler in this matchup, and for good reason. Cole is currently fifth in scoring in the Big East with 16.4 points per game. While he hasn’t been very efficient shooting — 38% from the field and 33% from three — he is a very good free throw shooter at 88% on the season. 

Sanogo has been a dominant force in the paint for much of this year. He is averaging 15.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. His season-high for this year came against current AP No. 2 Auburn when he scored 30. Sanogo has also had three games with 10 or more rebounds. The Bulldogs have struggled with rebounding all season and will need to give him a few different looks down low, probably a mix of Nze, Golden and Hodges. 

One name to look out for as well is Isaiah Whaley. The 6-foot-9-inch forward isn’t known for his scoring — 7.1 points per game — but he is arguably the Huskies’ most versatile defender and averages two blocks per game.

 

Will Chuck Harris show up for the Bulldogs?

A lot of pressure has been put on the sophomore guard to be the go-to scorer for the Dawgs this season. After his best performance of the season against Oklahoma, fans believed he would finally start producing on a consistent basis. But since then, Harris has been held to under 10 points four times.

Speculation has risen a little as to why Harris continues to come off the bench, but regardless of whether or not he is in the starting lineup, he needs to be more productive. This isn’t just on him, though. His coaches and teammates must set him up in more opportunities to succeed — preferably more catch-and-shoot situations and elbow jumpers. If Harris continues to struggle, then it’s more than likely the team as a whole will continue to struggle also.

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