Butler vs. Seton Hall: Beyond the box score

Kamar Baldwin sets up Butler’s offense. Baldwin finished with 23 points in the loss. Jimmy Lafkis/Collegian file photo. 

JOSHUA DOERING | SPORTS EDITOR | jdoering@butler.edu

The Butler men’s basketball team fell to 1-2 in Big East play with a 76-75 loss at Seton Hall. Butler scored 23 points off of turnovers but was outplayed in just about every other facet of the game. Here are three takeaways from an uninspiring defeat.

1. Butler has to move the ball better to win on the road. 

Seton Hall only made one more field goal than the Bulldogs in the first half but registered nine assists to Butler’s two. The result of the Bulldogs’ inability to create for each other was an 11-of-35 showing from the field and 25 points through 20 minutes. Butler’s players tried to do way too much individually and didn’t force the Pirates to rotate on defense, making their job much easier. Another solid defensive half by the Bulldogs and early Seton Hall turnovers were the only things keeping the Pirates’ lead in single digits going into halftime.

The Bulldogs posted seven assists, shot 47 percent as a team and outscored Seton Hall by eight in the second half. Butler can look absolutely awful on offense when the ball sticks and brilliant when it doesn’t. In all three road games it’s played, the ball movement has been horrendous in the first half. There was significant improvement as the game went along this time, but it still wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs have two more winnable road contests in the next week. Their passing will be a deciding factor in whether the outcome is different.

2. Kamar Baldwin got outplayed by Myles Powell. 

Baldwin almost single-handedly kept Butler’s offense afloat in the first half and accounted for 40 percent of the Bulldogs’ points. He matched the play of Powell for 20 minutes but couldn’t keep up down the stretch. Powell scored 31 points on 15 shots and 15 free throw attempts. Baldwin’s 23 came on 26 shots and only two free throws. The Pirates’ star made play after play in the closing minutes while Baldwin’s only significant contributions were an assist and a meaningless three at the buzzer. Butler needs a better showing from its main offensive threat to win a tight contest on the road.

For the most part since Big East play began, Baldwin’s been playing like the preseason All-Big East selection he was. Through three games, he’s scored 68 points and is shooting 46 percent from the field. With all the great guards in the Big East, he has to be at least that efficient every time Butler takes the floor. Butler’s not winning when Powell is great for 40 minutes and Baldwin is only great for 20. Butler only finishes in the top half of the conference if Baldwin can hang with the elite guards.

3. The struggles from three are not a major concern. 

Butler missed all seven of its 3-point attempts before halftime and started the game 0-for-9 from deep. The numbers were certainly ugly, but there are a couple of reasons to remain optimistic. First, most of Butler’s looks were high-quality and they just didn’t go down. On another day, the Bulldogs make five or six of those shots in the first half and the trajectory of the game changes significantly. Second, Seton Hall shot just 28 percent from beyond the arc. Butler was excellent defending the 3-point line for the second game in a row.

Butler ended up shooting 25 percent from three, 12 percentage points below its season average. However, the rough outing from deep did not do the Bulldogs in by itself. The combination of cold shooting and poor ball movement worked together to put Butler in a really tough spot. There will be times where the Bulldogs shoot the lights out and times when the 3-pointers won’t fall with any consistency. This game happened to be the latter, which is not a big deal. The 3-point line is nowhere near the biggest concern for this team right now.

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