Junior guard Chuck Harris is averaging 14.5 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game. Photo by Claire Runkel.
MATTHEW CRANE | SPORTS CO-EDITOR | email@example.com
The Butler men’s basketball team will open up Big East play with a home tilt against the third-ranked UConn Huskies. The Bulldogs are on a four-game winning streak and are coming off a road win at California on Dec. 10. UConn is 11-0 on the year and have not won a game by less than 10 points. UConn enters the game off a 114-61 win over Long Island.
It is yet to be determined if senior guard/forward Ali Ali and senior forward/center Jalen Thomas will be available for the game. Ali participated in his first practice of the season on Wednesday. Thomas has not practiced, but he is expected to be back in action soon.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the matchup between the Bulldogs and the Huskies.
Who: Butler vs. No. 3 UConn
When: Dec. 17, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse
How to watch/listen: FS1/WXNT 1430AM
Offense firing on all cylinders
Over the last four games, Butler’s offense has shot at least 50% from the field in every game. A key to their success has been the play of the starting lineup. Coming into games on Dec. 14, Butler’s starters led all starting lineups in the Big 6 conferences — ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big East — in minutes played and plus/minus.
The lack of depth due to injuries has contributed to the total minutes played, but the starting unit has not hit these numbers accidentally. Every starter is averaging double-figure point totals and all are shooting at least 47% from the field. Outside of Manny Bates who has attempted just one three-pointer on the year, the other four starters are all shooting at least 35% from three. Eric Hunter Jr. leads the starters shooting 43.2% from distance while Simas Lukosius is just behind him at 41.8%.
The Bulldogs are now entering the part of their schedule where it is imperative for the offense to be rolling. Starting off the schedule with UConn and Creighton is no easy feat for a team that has struggled in conference play over the past two seasons. This is clearly a much different roster and coaching staff, but the Dawgs would still benefit from starting off strong and not putting themselves in a hole early on in conference play.
With respect to Tennesee, it can be argued that UConn will be the best team that the Bulldogs have faced so far this season. UConn is averaging 85 points per game, shooting 49.5% from the field and 37.6% from three. Their leading scorers are junior Adama Sanogo and sophomore Jordan Hawkins who average 18.3 and 14.4 points per game, respectively.
The Huskies have nine players that average at least 15 minutes per game. They also have plenty of size on the roster and have the ability to bring even more talent off the bench in order to keep opposing defenses off balance. One key player the Dawgs will have to contend with off the bench is first-year Donovan Clingan. Clingan averages 15 minutes per game and is the Huskies’ third-leading scorer at 10.5 points per game and their leading rebounder at 6.9 rebounds per game. The 7-footer could pose problems when he enters the game for what figures to be an undersized Butler bench. The Bulldogs will need to be dialed in on defense and it will take a committee of Dawgs to get enough stops to be able to hang in the game.