Coming off a bit of a heartbreaker against Georgetown, the Butler Bulldogs faced off with the Creighton Bluejays at home on Wednesday night and came away with a 64-61 victory. The win brings the Bulldogs to 14-6 on the year and 4-3, while conversely keeping Creighton winless in Big East play thus far this season. Overall, it was slightly disappointing for Butler considering the difference in talent between the two squads and Creighton's standing as one of the lower-tier defenses in the nation, but these are the types of wins that matter in Big East play (more on that in a second). Mike Murtaugh and Rob O'Neill will take a look at the offense and defense, respectively, below:
What Went Well
- Closing Out the Opponent: In the end, while the Bulldogs were expected to handle the Bluejays easily (especially at home), this was a classic example of the competition level in this conference. Creighton's now taken both Seton Hall and Butler down the wire, and more than anything, they're proving that there is no such thing as an "off night" in the Big East. Teams have to be prepared for every game, or win-hungry squads like Creighton will jump at the opportunity. That being said, I think this may have been a nice lesson for the Bulldogs. Some nights, shots just aren't falling, and defense and fundamentals become exponentially more important as you try to hang on for a victory. The Bulldogs did just that, holding off a late surge from the Bluejays and taking advantage of the numerous second-chance opportunities generated by grabbing 17 offensive rebounds.
- Roosevelt Jones Does a Bit of Everything: A few weeks ago, it a legitimate debate between Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham for Butler's best shot at Big East Player of the Year, but with the hot streak Jones is currently riding, I think he's putting that debate to bed. In the month of January alone, Jones is averaging 18.6 points per game, including 28 and 23-point explosions in two of the last three games. He had 18 against the Bluejays, and he's done a tremendous job with improving his field goal percentage after some ugly games earlier this season, connecting on eight of his 17 attempts on Wednesday. He's really the only consistently reliable scoring option for Butler right now, and while Dunham has been facing a ton of defensive pressure from opponents, Jones has been cleaning things up for the Bulldogs.
What Went Poorly
- Poor Efficiency: As a team, the Bulldogs posted a 40-20-66 percent night from the field, three-point territory and the free throw line, respectively. I've already said that this was one of those nights where shots just really weren't falling, but then again, this isn't the first time this has been a problem. Their offensive rebounding tends to bail them out of these types of shooting performances, but there have been more than a handful of stagnant offensive possessions in the last few games.
- Exhaustion of Starters: Before the season, I spoke with then-interim head coach Chris Holtmann about how the team plans to manage minutes for the starters after the team struggled with that last season. Holtmann spoke about the team's depth and how that would help take high-minutes pressure off his starters, but the evidence shows otherwise. For the fifth time in the last six games, Jones played at least 39 minutes against Creighton, which is an insanely high amount of playing time. Granted, the team needs him on the floor as much as possible, but it's a lot to ask of Jones. He's a young man in great basketball shape and Holtmann has done a nice job with resting his other starters, so this may be a non-issue, but Jones' minutes are starting to really stand out on the stat sheet.
- Kellen Dunham's Disappearing Act: Look at Dunham's numbers from the last two games...
Jan. 17 at Georgetown:
1st Half: 13 points, 5-9 FG / 2nd Half: 0 points, 0 FGA
Jan. 21 vs. Creighton:
1st Half: 7 points, 2-5 FG / 2nd Half: 0 points, 0-7 FG
Notice anything? Dunham has basically vanished in the second half of the last two games, one of which ended in a loss and the other a close victory. I'm not sure this is a coincidence. Dunham has been struggling against double-teams from opposing defenses as of late, and when he doesn't have space to square up when he shoots and ends up launching off balance, he's not a consistent creator. Dunham registered just a 16 percent usage rate against Creighton, which measures the number of possessions during a player's time on the floor in which they end up shooting the basketball. That's an extremely low number, especially for one of the more dangerous weapons in college basketball. It'll be interesting to see if Holtmann changes things up on Sunday against Seton Hall to open up more clean looks for the junior guard.
What Went Well
Defensive Rebounding: As is customary with Butler, when they rebound well... they win. That was the case on Wednesday as they grabbed 21 defensive rebounds and only allowed Creighton to grab seven offensive boards. Surprisingly enough, it was Butler's guards, Alex Barlow and Roosevelt Jones, leading the charge. Both had five defensive rebounds and allowed zero offensive boards.
Block Party: Kameron Woods and Roosevelt Jones combined for seven Butler blocks. In a close game (whether it should have been, or not) every time you deny a basket by blocking a shot, it is pivotal. Seven blocks is a great showing from a team that averages three a game, which is 226th in the nation. If the Bulldogs can continue keeping their shot blocking up, it will help them tenfold going forth.
What Went Poorly
Closing out the opponent: Yes. This is in What Went Well on offense and What Went Poorly here, and for good reason. The Bulldogs let Creighton go on an 11-0 run over the last four minutes of the game to take a 59-57 lead inside of two minutes. Thankfully for the Bulldogs, as you read above, they managed to recover and close it out. But with an effort like that against any other team in the conference, Butler would have been in deep trouble.