Junior guard Chuck Harris rises up for a shot over a Villanova defender on Jan. 13. Photo by Claire Runkel.
KOBE MOSLEY | MANAGING EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
For the fifth time in six games, the Butler men’s basketball team was defeated by a Big East opponent, this time in a 79-58 rout on the road to the 23rd-ranked Providence Friars. The Bulldogs are now at .500 on the season with an 11-11 record, while the Friars improve to 16-5. Graduate guard Eric Hunter Jr. led the Dawgs in scoring with 12 points, followed by sophomore guard Jayden Taylor who ended with 10 points on 4-12 shooting. Graduate center Manny Bates returned to the lineup after missing three games due to injury, finishing with just six points, two rebounds and four fouls in 19 minutes of play.
For Providence, four players entered double digits in scoring. Sophomore Bryce Hopkins led all players with 16 points. Both redshirt first-year Corey Floyd Jr. and graduate Clifton Moore added 12 points, and sophomore Devin Carter logged his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The Friars led for 75% of the game and were up as much as 26 points at one point, so this game was pretty much out of hand five minutes into the second half. This unfortunately has become a trend this season for Butler — a 15-point deficit becomes an insuperable obstacle.
Let’s go beyond the box score to dissect the Bulldogs’ 11th loss on the season.
In the paint and off the glass
All game long, it was evident that Butler was outmatched by Providence in two areas: scoring in the paint and grabbing rebounds. Butler was outscored in the paint 18-8 in the first half and 30-12 in the second. They were also outrebounded by Friars 22-10 in the first half and 20-14 in the second.
Rebounding has been a problem for the Bulldogs all season long, ranking among the bottom in the Big East in the statistic. With the bigs of the team — Bates, senior forward/center Jalen Thomas, junior forward Myles Wilmoth, sophomore forward DJ Hughes, etc. — being in and out of the lineup with various injuries, some grace can be offered for their inconsistencies in rebounding. Now that most of these players have been on the court, there is no excuse to repeatedly be outworked on the boards.
A majority of Providence’s points in the paint came from Butler’s errors and lack of defense, as the Friars had 10 fastbreak points and 18 points off turnovers.
Is a change in rotation needed again?
Butler’s starting lineup has been altered several times — mostly due to injury — meaning head coach Thad Matta has been forced to change things up for Butler all season long. After a lackluster 3-8 stretch to begin in his Big East debut, it may be time to change things up again.
No one is saying that the rotation should be narrowed down to six players again — though oddly enough the Bulldogs were more efficient statistically when that was the case. It could, however, be a good thing if some players’ roles and minutes were altered.
To be frank, Hunter Jr.’s production has been the opposite of what we expected it to be at the beginning of Big East play. Bates has been bitten once again by the injury bug, but his effectiveness on defense is nowhere near what it once was. Sophomore guard/forward Simas Lukosious has either been the driving force of the offense or a turnover machine. Junior guard Chuck Harris has had flashes of brilliance on offense and has held his own at times on defense too, but he has also been wildly inconsistent and inefficient at times too.
What may be good for the Bulldogs is if they incorporate more of their bench. Redshirt freshman guard/forward Pierce Thomas and Hughes have both disappeared from the rotation after giving valuable additions to the team early in the season. Junior guard Myles Tate has only cracked more than four minutes of playing time once since Big East play began, and to the naked eye it seems that he has fully returned from his ACL injury during his first year.
It would take some very good time management skills and the reduction of starter minutes. However, there are teams out there who have successful 10-man rotations, and obviously whatever the Bulldogs are doing right now isn’t working.
Rest of season outlook
With nine games left in the regular season, Butler’s schedule will continue to be littered with ranked opponents. Butler has yet to play No. 13 Xavier — at home on Feb. 10 and on the road on March 4 — who sits atop the Big East with a 9-1 conference record. The Dawgs also have two matchups with No. 16 Marquette — on the road on Feb. 2 and at home on Feb. 28 — who sit a game behind Xavier for second in the conference. The remaining five games are against Seton Hall on Jan. 28, St. John’s on Feb. 7, Villanova on Feb. 14, Georgetown on Feb. 19 and DePaul on Feb. 22.