Butler staggered sleepily onto the court Wednesday night and conceded an eight-point lead to Dayton before three minutes of game time had passed. Shortly thereafter, Butler went on an 8-0 run to even the score, making the slow start seem like a random occurrence; unfortunately, that run was the last one the Bulldogs had in them. With a terrible offensive performance and a pedestrian defensive effort, Butler eventually fell 69-64.
Butler had an impossible time scoring throughout the entire game. Dayton got off to a hot start, but the Flyers’ offense slowed down considerably after the first six minutes or so. However, Dayton made just enough baskets to see its lead steadily increase until it leveled out around 11 or 12 points in the second half. Butler couldn’t get enough consistency on offense or defense to close the gap.
Butler had an abysmal shooting night. Kamar Baldwin finished just 5-17 from the field, missing all five of his three-point attempts. As a team, Butler shot 24-60 and 7-23 on threes. Even the free throw line was a struggle for Butler; they shot 9-17 from the stripe.
In contrast, Dayton shot 54.3%, using a balanced attack to bury the Bulldogs. Jalen Crutcher, Josh Cunningham, and Trey Landers scored 20, 18, and 10 points, respectively.
Butler will play the loser of Virginia and Middle Tennessee on Thanksgiving Day at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Dribble penetration is a serious problem
Earlier Butler victories made it seem as though the Bulldogs’ inability to penetrate defenses could be a problem. Against Dayton, it proved to be a serious issue. Butler is not creating good shots through dribble penetration. Defenses are aware of Baldwin’s ability to drive and are effectively cutting him off. Thompson and Jorgensen, though willing drivers, have struggled to turn their drives into good shots or passes. Butler may struggle offensively all year if they don’t figure out how to get into the teeth of defenses.
Bulldogs can’t afford to be lazy on defense
Butler played lazy defense for the first ten minutes of the game and it cost them. The Bulldogs were never able to overcome the deficit they created for themselves by allowing Dayton easy buckets early. Butler’s defense improved thereafter, and ultimately, the defensive performance wasn’t atrocious. But having ultimately fallen by just five points, all the Bulldogs would have needed was a little more defensive energy in the first half. Slow starts were a trend last year for Butler, and need to be addressed immediately.
No love for the big men
Butler made it clear that they don’t trust Fowler and/or Brunk to get it done in the paint against Dayton. Either that, or the Bulldogs don’t know how to make an entry pass. While Fowler and Brunk both tower over Dayton’s Cunningham and Toppin, the big men didn’t get many touches, and combined for just ten shots. They did combine to shoot 4-8 on shots inside the three-point arc, so they might have been a scoring threat for the Bulldogs, but Butler made little to no effort to feed them. This is another disturbing trend, especially when combined with the aforementioned penetration problem.