Butler vs Creighton: Beyond the box score

Guard Bo Hodges holds his follow-through on a shot against Creighton on Jan. 26. Photo by Francie Wilson.

KOBE MOSLEY | SPORTS EDITOR | kmosley@butler.edu

For the third game in a row, the Butler men’s basketball team came one possession short in a loss — this time coming in the form of a 54-52 defeat to Creighton. In their last four losses, the point differential has been a combined 14 points. Freshman Jayden Taylor led the Bulldogs in scoring with 13 points. Bo Hodges added 10 points, nine rebounds and 2 blocks. Aaron Thompson ended with nine points and three steals and Bryce Golden had nine points and nine rebounds.

With this win, Creighton improves to 14-8 overall and 6-5 in the Big East. Butler is now 11-13 overall and 4-9 in the Big East. Without a win that Butler desperately needed to keep whatever slim hope of a tournament bid they had alive, it is looking like an NIT bid may be difficult to obtain as well. The Dawgs’ inability to end possessions with a bucket has hurt them all season, and it especially hurt them in this game, as Creighton also struggled to make shots throughout the game. Through all that, Butler still had a chance to tie it in the closing seconds, but their possession ended in an Aaron Thompson turnover.

Let’s go beyond the box score on yet another closely contested contest with a disappointing result for the Bulldogs.

 

Inconsistent offense

Weirdly enough, the first points for Butler came on a 3-pointer by Aaron Thompson, who isn’t known for taking many shots from beyond the arc, let alone making them. That seemed like a sign of things to come for the Dawgs, who shot the ball well from deep against the Bluejays in their last meeting.

Butler wouldn’t start to rain in 3-pointers, but they did start out hot from the field in the first half. The Dawgs made nine of their first 15 shots and opened up a 21-12 lead about 10 minutes into the half. To close out the half, Butler would only make four of their next sixteen shot attempts. Creighton also struggled to make a bucket though, and Butler led by four at the break.

Things wouldn’t get better offensively for either team in the second half. Both teams combined to shoot 16-47 from the field, 3-12 from three, and 15-25 from the free throw line. What won the game for Creighton was their ability to count a player to produce points down the stretch. 

Though it was Ryan Nembhard who scored the go-ahead layup, Ryan Hawkins had 13 of his 15 points in the second half. No one really took on that role for Butler. Jayden Taylor tried to be that guy as he scored nine points in the second half, including two big free throws and a layup to take a one-point lead with 1:04 remaining. Unfortunately, he was the one guarding Nembhard when Creighton took the lead back. You can’t really fault him in that moment though, as that is a tough task for any freshman defender. 

 

Can anyone consistently score?

This is a question that has been asked pretty much all year. The team’s leading scorer, Chuck Harris, averages just over 10 points per game. While he has entered double-digits in points 10 times this season, he has been apt to have games like he did in this one, where he ended the night at one point and zero field goals. Hopefully, Harris is just experiencing a sophomore slump of some sort, but whatever he has been experiencing has weakened an already shaky offense.

Since Bo Hodges has become a starter, he is averaging 12.7 points per game and shooting 48% from the field. He scored 10 points in the first half of this game, but was held scoreless in the second. He has established himself as someone who can play on both ends of the court and can score inside and outside the perimeter. He will need to continue to play at a high level if Butler wants to be competitive as they head into the final stretch of the regular season.

The team’s second-leading scorer, Jayden Taylor has shown spurts of his ability to heat up offensively. Taylor has more games scoring in double figures than Harris, though he hasn’t taken nearly as many shots. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if he took a couple more shots every now and then, and he seems to be improving on knowing when to take an open shot and when to find the open man.

 

Last seven games of the regular season

The next matchup for the Bulldogs will take place on Feb. 12 at 4:30 p.m. in Hinkle against No. 18 Marquette. They then travel to Chicago to play DePaul on Feb. 15, go to Queens, New York to play St. John’s on Feb. 18 and return to Hinkle to play No. 11 Providence on Feb. 20. 

Butler will then embark on one last two-game road trip, playing at Seton Hall on Feb. 23 and at No. 18 Marquette on Feb. 26. The last game of the season will be at Hinkle against No. 15 Villanova.

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