Senior guard/forward Ali Ali scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds in the loss to Marquette on Feb. 4. Photo by Grace Hensley.
MATTHEW CRANE | SPORTS CO-EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler men’s basketball team was defeated by No. 14 Marquette 60-52 in yet another conference road defeat. The Bulldogs fell to 11-13 on the season while the Golden Eagles improved to 19-5 and now sit tied with Xavier at the top of the Big East standings. Sophomore guard Jayden Taylor led all scorers with 19 points and brought down seven rebounds. Sophomore guard/forward Simas Lukosius added 15 points and dished out seven assists. Junior guard Chuck Harris was out with concussion symptoms and did not travel with the team.
For Marquette, three players finished with double-digit scoring outputs. Junior Tyler Kolek finished with 13 points and eight assists. Both junior Olivier-Maxence Prosper and first-year Chase Ross contributed 10 points. The Bulldogs held the Golden Eagles to their second-lowest point total of the season. The Golden Eagles came into the game averaging 82.2 points per game.
Let’s go beyond the box score to unpack the Bulldogs’ closest conference defeat of the season.
Showing some fight
Throughout the season when the Bulldogs have been punched in the mouth, they have not responded and seemingly waved the white flag. This game started out looking like the same story as the Dawgs found themselves down 16-6 at the under-12 media timeout. This time, however, the Dawgs were able to claw their way back and even cut the deficit to five points with under a minute to go in the first half.
Unfortunately, poor discipline and terrible execution by the Bulldogs saw the Golden Eagles score seven points in the final 34 seconds of the first half and extend their lead to 32-20 at the half. In the second half, the Bulldogs did something they have not done in Big East play. They kept fighting and kept cutting into the lead. Once again, they found themselves down five points with under four minutes to go in the game. From that point on, the team was only able to score two points for the remainder of the game.
Where has this team been during conference play? It should not have taken 13 games into conference play to finally respond to an opponent making a run. There are still many problems that this team has, but the fact they were able to remain in the game with a ranked opponent shows this team has the ability to play well. Time will only tell if this game was a step in the right direction or if this was just a rare occurrence in a season that has been disappointing.
For the things that Butler did well in this game, taking care of the basketball was certainly not one of them. The team committed 19 turnovers which led to 22 points for Marquette. Teams that give their opponents the opportunity for extra possessions do not often win. The Bulldogs have continually tested that theory and it has not worked out for them yet.
Strong guard play tends to be the key to a successful offense and the guards that take care of the ball give their team a semblance of security. In this game, the Bulldogs starting guards combined for 11 turnovers. The veteran presence of graduate guard Eric Hunter Jr. has not shined for this offense. The best spot for him might be coming off the bench as the sixth man. Junior guard Myles Tate has shown flashes and the team responded well to him entering the game with a more free-flowing offense that went on a scoring run.
If players like Tate can get in and get a steady dose of minutes, the final outcome of these games might be different, and could even see the Dawgs pick up a couple of wins down the final stretch of the regular season.
Looking ahead to St. John’s
Butler will take on the St. John’s Red Storm on Feb. 7 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs will be looking to avenge their earlier 77-61 defeat and to stop their five-game slide. The Red Storm are coming off a 96-71 loss at Xavier and are on a two-game losing streak.