The Butler Bulldogs fell to the Xavier Musketeers on Saturday evening, 68-55 Final, a game which had originally been scheduled for Friday night before it was postponed a day.
The Bulldogs had another poor shooting outing from the field, as Butler was just 23-67 (34.3%) from FG range and 5-25 (20%) from 3 point range.
Meanwhile, Xavier was 26-51 from FG (51.0%) and 10-20 (50%) from 3 point range, which was essentially the difference in this game.
Butler trailed 37-25 at halftime and looked pretty lifeless on the court, as the team was struggling to buy a basket and maintain any resemblance of offensive rhythm. The three point defense also has to be better.
However, to the Bulldogs credit, down 47-27 with 15:30 left in the second half, the team did go on a 13-0 scoring run to close the Musketeers’ lead to 47-40 with 11:12 following a Bo Hodges‘ made layup.
The spirited Butler comeback attempt was sparked by Hodges’ scoring off the bench and sophomore big man John-Michael Mulloy‘s energy off the bench respectively.
Speaking of Hodges, the transfer guard made his Dawgs debut, having previously been declared academically ineligible by the NCAA. He was previously 2x All-Southern Conference for ETSU.
Despite the weeks of inactivity, Hodges was one of the few bright spots for Butler. He scored 6 of his 11 total points during that 13-0 Butler second half run–flashing the unique ability to drive into the paint and finish with both hands around the rim:
Despite understandably suffering from some cramps late in the game (with the long layoff), Hodges had an overall line of 11 points (5-14 FG), 6 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and 2 blocks in 27 minutes off the bench.
As Hodges continues to get more into in-game shape–shaking off all of the rust, a promotion into Butler’s starting lineup is presumably imminent. He could be a much needed offensive playmaker, who can create his own shot for a Bulldogs’ team that has simply struggled scoring all season.
Beyond that, power forward Bryce Nze led all Butler scorers with 16 points (7-10 FG) and also had 11 total rebounds in a workmanlike effort. Senior point guard Aaron Thompson chipped in 10 points (5-13 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal.
Xavier’s senior guard and Indianapolis native Paul Scruggs was the best player on the court with 24 points (9-13 FG) on Friday night.
Despite the Bulldogs’ second half comeback attempt, the team ultimately couldn’t close the gap on the Musketeers–even though Butler at least made it somewhat interesting again for a stretch there.
Xavier led by as many as 20 points, while Butler never led in this one.
While Butler can’t do anything this season about their lack of size, depth, shooting, and overall scoring, the team can still control its energy, edge, and toughness out there. It seems like for two consecutive games–both of which were losses, that the Bulldogs haven’t come out with the right energy, enthusiasm, and execution for the game on the court.
That’s been an unfortunate re-occurring trend on the road for the Bulldogs, but it’s the first time Butler fans have seen it really happen at home in Hinkle against a Big East opponent this season.
Whether that’s an indictment on the players or the coaches–maybe both, is not clear, but it’s something that is within the Bulldogs’ control and needs to be addressed going forward.
The Bulldogs (5-9, 4-7 Big East) will travel to Milwaukee to take on Marquette (8-8, 4-6 Big East) on Tuesday at 5 PM EST on FS1. Butler is now #94 in the KenPom rankings, while the Golden Eagles are #71.