Butler vs. Marquette: Beyond the box score

Aaron Thompson dribbles around a Bryce Golden pick in Butler’s loss to Providence on Feb. 20. Photo by Claire Runkel

HENRY BREDEMEIER | MANAGING EDITOR | hbredeme@butler.edu

The Butler men’s basketball team lost their fourth consecutive game yesterday after falling 64-56 to Marquette. Bryce Golden scored 14 points for Butler, with Aaron Thompson adding 12 points and six assists. Bryce Nze secured his second straight double-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. The Bulldogs fall to 13-17 overall and 6-13 in the Big East.

The Bulldogs led for the majority of the game but allowed Marquette to stay close and ultimately run away with the win. With just under nine minutes left, the Golden Eagles took their first lead since being up 3-2 in the opening minute and did not squander that lead for the rest of the game.

Yesterday’s game had a similar arc to the matchup with Marquette in Hinkle earlier this month. Butler shot lights out in the first half but were always in danger of letting Marquette come back into the game. In the second half, Butler’s shots were not falling, while the Golden Eagles, led by Justin Lewis, started getting in an offensive groove. The difference between the games though, is Butler hit the clutch shots down the stretch to put away the comeback in Hinkle, and they did not in Milwaukee. Butler shot just 28% from the field and 0-10 from three in the second half. It’s very difficult to win games against good teams with poor percentages like that.

Let’s go beyond the box score for Butler’s final road contest of the season.

Strong start out of the gate

For the first 20 minutes, Butler looked like they had it in them to complete the season sweep of Marquette. Through the first four minutes of the game, both teams were firing on all cylinders. Butler led 15-12 at the first TV timeout after shooting 6-8 from the field and 3-4 from three. 

The Bulldogs followed that with an 8-2 run to take a 23-14 lead at the 12-minute mark. It was at that point Butler became ice-cold from all over the floor and never found a way to heat back up. Marquette quickly rattled off an 8-0 run to cut the lead to one, and the two teams traded baskets the rest of the half with Butler taking a 33-30 lead into halftime

While it was a good lead to take into the locker room, the signs were there that Butler may let the lead slip away. After starting off scorching hot from three in the first four minutes, Butler only hit one 3-pointer the rest of the half on nine attempts. While Butler had an impressive 12 assists in the first half, they also had nine turnovers — a concerning number for a team that averages just 11 per game.

Abysmal after halftime

In the first eight minutes of the game, Butler scored 23 points. In the final 20 minutes of the game, Butler scored 23 points. Some credit should be given to Marquette for locking in on defense and bringing more intensity as the game progressed, but the Bulldogs simply weren’t hitting shots, regardless of if they were open or well-defended.

Butler started the game hitting three of four 3-point attempts in the first four minutes. After that start, the Bulldogs hit just one 3-pointer in the final 36 minutes of the game on 19 attempts. Bo Hodges, Nze, Chuck Harris, Jayden Taylor, Ty Groce and Simas Lukosius combined to shoot just 1-17 from behind the arc. Shooting like that in any game, let alone a road game, almost always gives a significant advantage to the other team.

Butler’s offensive struggles weren’t just shooting the long ball. Leading scorer Chuck Harris was held without a point in 21 minutes of playing time as he continues to go through an up and down season. Simas Lukosius continued his rough stretch with just two points on 0-5 shooting from the field. The team also shot just 10-18 from the free throw line, with Hodges and Thompson missing three crucial free throws with 90 seconds left that could have cut Marquette’s lead to three.

It is no secret that Butler has struggled shooting the ball this season, but the team may have hit a new low yesterday. It doesn’t matter how well the defense plays — and they played well — but if the Bulldogs continue to shoot this poorly, they could be staring at another blowout loss to Villanova and an early exit in the Big East tournament.

Looking ahead

Butler’s final regular season game will be next Saturday, March 5, against AP No. 8 Villanova at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It will be senior day, and the final time that Aaron Thompson, Bo Hodges, Ty Groce, Bryce Nze, Christian David and Jair Bolden will suit up in Hinkle.

As of now, there seems to be no implication for Big East tournament seeding in this final game. Unless DePaul wins the rest of their three games, Butler will be the nine-seed in the tournament, likely playing the loser of the St. John’s-Xavier game on March 2 in Queens. If Butler were to win the eight vs. nine game, they would play the No. 1 seed Providence the following day.

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