GAME NOTES: The Butler Bulldogs go back to the drawing board, as they continue their quest for that elusive first win in Big East Conference play, this time against the Marquette Golden Eagles at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler has not received a warm welcome from its new conference foes, the team having suffered defeats in all five of its Big East bouts. The Bulldogs' losing ways in league play has dropped them to 10-7 overall. Regardless of how this game turns out, they will be back in action on Tuesday at Providence.
Marquette is certainly familiar with the difficulty of playing in the Big East, and it has received another lesson early this season. The Golden Eagles escaped with a 67-66 win over Seton Hall last Saturday to earn a 2-2 split of their first four conference tests. The win was the 20th straight at home for Marquette against Big East rivals. A clash with Georgetown is next on the docket.
This is a rematch of one of the more exciting bouts of last year's NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles escaped with a 74-72 victory to advance to the Sweet 16 and improve to 15-12 all-time against the Bulldogs.
Although they shot just 37.5 percent from the floor in the second half against Seton Hall, the Golden Eagles were able to hold on for the win thanks to a 9- of-10 showing from the free-throw line in the period. Todd Mayo (19 points) and Jamil Wilson (16 points, 11 rebounds) led the way to victory.
The Golden Eagles, who held the Pirates to 41.4 percent shooting, have made it a habit of tightening the reins on defense. They are limiting opponents to just 63.2 ppg and 39.4 percent shooting this season, ranking among the top-40 in the country in each category. However, they are in the bottom half of the Big East in scoring (71.1 ppg) themselves. Davante Gardner (13.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) leads the team in scoring, shooting 54.4 percent from the floor. Although he has had marked success as a reserve, Gardner has begun to get more play in the starting rotation. Wilson (11.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Mayo (9.8 ppg) are the next best options.
Butler got to witness the exceptional play of Doug McDermott first-hand in its 88-60 loss to Creighton last time out. McDermott netted 28 points in the contest and the Bulldogs shot just 35.3 percent from the field, with Kellen Dunham's 12 points leading the way.
The 88 points the Bulldogs let up to Creighton was far beyond their normal production on defense. Normally a stout squad in that area, Butler is holding foes to 68.4ppg and 44.7 percent shooting this season. Dunham (18.4 ppg), who is fourth in the Big East in scoring, is the team's top offensive threat, although he is shooting at just a 39.5 percent clip from the field. Khyle Marshall (15.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is shooting a far superior 54.7 percent, but he gets most of his shots in close to the basket. There are no other double-digit scorers on the roster, although Kameron Woods (8.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg) is a constant threat for a double-double.
Marquette may not be the powerhouse in the conference that many predicted, but its trio of solid scorers and strong defensive acumen should give the Golden Eagles enough of a push to get past the Bulldogs.
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