Senior forward Jahmyl Telfort had 17 points in the loss against UConn. Photo courtesy of Butler Athletics.
CALEB DENORME | ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR | email@example.com
The men’s basketball team traveled to Connecticut to take on the No. 1 team in the nation Tuesday night. The Dawgs were able to hang around all game, but ultimately fell 71-62 to the Huskies.
The Bulldogs were not able to grab a lead at any point in the game but were able to keep the game within reach. UConn’s largest lead of the game was 14, but Butler kept the deficit around 10 to five for most of the contest.
The Dawgs cut the Huskies’ lead to five with two and a half minutes to go, but UConn was just too much for them to handle. The home team flexed their offensive muscles in crunch time to stave off the pesky Butler team.
Senior guard DJ Davis led the Bulldogs in scoring with 21 points, followed by senior forward Jahmyl Telfort with 17. The other three starters were not able to get going, combining for a mere 20 points. It was a weak night for the bench as well, only pouring in four points collectively.
UConn showed why they are the top team in the country on both ends of the court. Led by graduate guard Cam Spencer’s 20 points and sophomore center Donovan Clingan’s double-double, the Huskies were able to extend their Big East win streak to 11 straight.
In a hard-fought loss for the Bulldogs, let’s go beyond the box score.
Defending in the first half
The key to winning on the road against a top opponent is starting fast. Unfortunately for Butler, they were not able to do that.
The Bulldogs got down early but kept fighting back, however only shooting 32.3% from the field did not help their cause. UConn on the other hand, hit on 57.7% of their shots in the first period.
A common theme for the Dawgs on defense was getting burned on backcuts. The Huskies would set up a double screen for a shooter on the wing, then dive toward the basket. Butler struggled to track these cutters, which led to a series of easy baskets for UConn.
To beat a talented team like the Huskies, you have to be smart on defense and force hard shots. The Bulldogs gave away too many easy looks early, which is what set them on track to lose this game.
What happened on offense?
Telfort and Davis were the Bulldogs’ only avenues of offense in this matchup. Davis was able to hurt the Huskies from deep, while Telfort continued his hot streak of performances in the paint.
The problem for Butler was the rest of the team. Usual offensive standout Pierre Brooks went missing, only scoring five points and hitting on only 20% of his attempts. Posh Alexander poured in eight points but may have been rusty after missing the win over Creighton.
Butler coach Thad Matta seemed to shift focus down low, sitting Jalen Thomas in favor of Andre Screen for a majority of the game. Screen started the second half in place of Thomas, but did not seem to change much for the team.
The reality for Butler is that they have talented players who do not play well on the same nights. Against the Huskies, it was Davis and Telfort’s night, but they did not get much help outside of themselves. If the Bulldogs want to be a dangerous team going forward, the players need to play well on the same night. It happened against Creighton, but not against UConn.
What’s coming up?
Butler will return to Hinkle Fieldhouse for a three-game stretch against Providence on Feb. 10, Marquette on Feb. 13 and Creighton on Feb. 17. The Bulldogs will set their sights on the Friars first, in what is a must-win game if this squad wants to stay in the NCAA Tournament conversation.
The following two matchups come against top 25 squads that the Dawgs have bested before, but they will be looking for revenge. It will be a huge week-long stretch for the Bulldogs as March draws nearer.