Butler lead almost wire-to-wire and gutted out some close basketball before coming away with the victory against the Marquette Golden Eagles, 68-to-65.
The Bulldogs used their 3-point shooting to take a 40-33 lead into halftime, lead by Avery Woodson with 15 points, who hit three of their seven first half threes. Marquette’s prolific offense was somewhat stagnant in the first half, and the usually hot-from-three team looked lost from behind the arc, going a mere 4-9 from deep, including some looks that should not have been looks at all. Luke Fischer went into the locker room at half with 11 points to lead the Golden Eagles.
The major story in the game came from an unusual source in the second half: Marquette’s defense rising to the challenge and holding Butler to only 28 points in the second period. Marquette, who has struggled to contain opponents during much of the season, stepped up and held Butler to just 10-24 from the floor and 2-8 from three in the second half.
But it wasn’t enough, as the Bulldogs used their lead late to draw fouls, shooting 10 free throws in the second half, making six, in comparison to Marquette only making 2-5 in the second frame.
Andrew Chrabascz was particularly tough all game, but his relentless effort in the second half to create his own shot and open up the Marquette defense lead to many points. He had 21 by himself on 8-11 shooting, and added five rebounds and four assists.
Another huge factor in the win was Butler’s rim defense. Markus Howard got blocked five times on his own, and 4 of them were Kamar Baldwin playing incredible on-ball defense on the drive against him. Butler didn’t give up anything easy at the rim, and Marquette’s field goal percentage from 2 was low (18 of 39). Marquette shot 40.6% from the field in the second half. They managed to pull themselves up by two at one point, but Butler came right back and put themselves ahead for good at the 8:21 mark in the second half. Marquette ended the game with almost a four minute draught of no scoring until the final minute as well, highlighting a night of curiously poor offense.
Kelan Martin, normally a starter for the Bulldogs, didn’t play in the first half at all, and only clocked 1 point on 0-3 shooting in ten minutes on the floor. In the press conference afterwards, Coach Holtmann said that “it is an internal issue” and that it was his decision. That, most would have thought, would have had a huge impact on the Butler offense. But every other player stepped up and filled the void his offense usually occupies.
As for Marquette, Luke Fischer lead the way with a double-double, nabbing 19 points and 13 rebounds (including five offensive rebounds). Markus Howard added 19 points of his own. Sam Hauser had a quietly good night with eight points, seven rebounds, and five assists, fulfilling his role as a glue guy/shooter for the Golden Eagles.
Marquette goes on the road to Georgetown next, playing on Saturday. Butler gets to visit the Providence Friars Saturday, as well.
- Marquette went 8-21 (38.1%) from three for the game. Out of character for the Golden Eagles.
- Marquette was plagued by turnovers again, having 14 against a tough Butler defense.
- Kethan Savage went off the court limping after a rolled ankle early in the first half, but came back. Didn’t have a huge impact in the game, but knowing that he can play is good for the Bulldogs going forward.
- Tyler Lewis started on the bench, but came off it to have an incredibly tough game, going 3-4 from the floor and adding 5 assists.
- Is there a better on-ball defender (Khyri Thomas is incredible too, I suppose) than Kamar Baldwin in the Big East? He was a terror.
- Andrew Chrabascz had five steals from the forward position. Don’t see that a lot. As much as he contributed to the offensive portion, his defensive effort and awareness were just as strong.