Men’s basketball loses to Michigan State: Beyond the Box Score

Senior forward Jahmyl Telfort had 15 points in the loss to Michigan State. Photo courtesy of Butler Athletics.


The men’s basketball team fell to Michigan State (MSU), falling to 3-1 on the season. The Spartans handled the Bulldogs easily, winning 74-54

This is the first loss for the Dawgs after winning their first three games at home. Butler’s hot shooting start came to an end in East Lansing, shooting a dismal 28.8% from the field. Before tonight the Bulldogs were shooting 50% from the field and averaging 88.7 points per game. The level of opposition was not on the same level as MSU, but shooting that poorly will not win games at any level. 

Senior forward Jahmyl Telfort led the Dawgs in scoring with 15 points but only shot 33% from the field. The only other Bulldog who scored in double digits was junior guard Pierre Brooks with 13 points. On the other hand, MSU was led by graduate Tyson Walker’s 21 point explosion. 

Butler was able to hang around for the opening part of the first half, but ultimately made too many mistakes which allowed the Spartans to pull away. At halftime Michigan State led by 12 and never looked back. From there it was smooth sailing for MSU, cruising to a 20 point victory. Butler was never able to get a foothold in this game, opting to play most of their starters for a majority of the game. Rotation was a big key in the first three games for the Dawgs, but that was not the case tonight. 

Sputtering offense sinks the Dawgs 

If there’s a glaring issue from this game: the Butler offense. Even in the opening moments when the Bulldogs were hanging around, the offensive end of the floor looked disjointed and filled with mistakes. 

The most glaring problem was the shooting. The Dawgs hit only 15 out of 52 attempts to shoot only 28.8% from the field. The only player who seemed to get going on the offensive end was Telfort, but Michigan State’s defense did a good job of shutting the rest of the team down. 

Shot selection was also something that was lacking. Out of Butler’s 52 shots, they took 25 attempts from beyond the arc. Even worse, only seven of them found the bottom of the net. For a team that shoots that many threes, that percentage is not going to help them beat a team like MSU. 

Outside of the scoring issues, the team just looked rusty on the offensive end. Michigan State was quick on defense which seemed to take the Dawgs by surprise. This led to misplaced passes, poor ball handling and unfruitful offensive possessions. Of the 64 possessions Butler had, they only scored on 24 of them. 

Every team will have games like this, especially a team that is only returning three players. This was a wake up call to the Bulldogs, pointing out some things they need to work on to compete with the bigger programs again. This squad still has a lot of promise, but these next few games are going to test them. 

Lack of rotation 

Up until tonight coach Thad Matta has kept a philosophy of high rotation and going “ten deep” into his bench. The Bulldogs had ten players touch the court tonight, but not with the usual rotation that fans are used to. 

First off, Butler’s starters racked up significant minutes. Telfort, Brooks and senior guard Posh Alexander all played upwards of 30 minutes on the night, followed closely by senior guard DJ Davis with 29 minutes. Fifth year center Jalen Thomas started but only played 16 minutes total. 

There was still heavy rotation at the center position, with senior center Andre Screen and first-year center Boden Kapke getting time in the double digits. An absent member on the night was sophomore Connor Turnbull, who only saw the court for two minutes. 

First-year guard Finley Bizjack and sophomore guard Landon Moore both came off the bench, but only had three points total between the two of them. The Dawgs bench as a whole contributed ten points, too small of a total for a team who wants to go deep into their bench. 

This top-heavy rotation can be explained by the competition. Michigan State is a harder team than any of the first three teams Butler played, so the starters getting a bulk of the minutes is not a huge surprise. Despite this, the Bulldogs still need to be able to rely on their bench when they need them, and tonight they could not. 

Butler returns to action on Nov. 23 against Florida Atlantic in the first game of the ESPN Events Invitational.


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