Seton Hall shot roughly 12% better than Butler from the field on Wednesday night and had 15 more attempts from the line. Sound like a blowout? It wasn’t. Due to poor free throw shooting and turnover trouble, the Pirates could never really put Butler completely away. In the end, Seton Hall made just enough free throws to stay ahead of the Bulldogs biting at their heels, and prevailed 76-75.
Butler had a chance to tie the game when Kamar Baldwin let a three-pointer fly with just under a minute left, but he missed. After Quincy McKnight sank two free throws, Henry Baddley drained a corner three off a dazzling behind-the-back pass from Paul Jorgensen. Butler then tried to foul Sandro Mamukelashvili, a poor free throw shooter, but the officials let the contact go and Mamukelashvili put a layup in.
Kamar Baldwin got to the rim and scored to cut Butler’s deficit to two again with three seconds left. Powell was then fouled and made both free throws. Baldwin hit a buzzer-beating three, but Butler was one point short.
Myles Powell was spectacular for Seton Hall, scoring 31 points on just 15 shots. His performance was reminiscent of former Butler star Kelan Martin. Powell did a great job of letting the game come to him and taking what the defense gave him. He was never out of control or trigger-happy, and he scored inside, from the stripe, and from the three point line.
Butler, which got out to a poor start but refused to quit, was led by Joey Brunk. It was a career night for the sophomore, who scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He also hit a huge three that kept the Bulldogs breathing late.
Butler’s struggles on the road continue as they fall to 2-5 away from Hinkle. Seton Hall, meanwhile, improves to 3-1 and maintains sole possession of second place in the BIG EAST.
Seton Hall next plays Marquette on Saturday, January 12 @ 2:00 p.m. ET.
Butler next plays Xavier on Sunday, January 13 @ 12:00 p.m. ET.
Seton Hall must shore up its fundamentals
Seton Hall was the better team on Wednesday night but almost let the game slip away with turnovers and poor free throw shooting. Fortunately for the Pirates, Powell is a great shooter from the strips, but many of the rotation players shoot under 60% from the line. As for turnovers, Seton Hall hasn’t been turnover-prone this year, but had several unforced and lazy turnovers against the Bulldogs. If Seton Hall can patch up some of these issues, the Pirates could overachieve in the conference this year.
Butler hurt again by first half nap
One strange hallmark of the LaVall Jordan era at Butler thus far is an inability to start games well. Butler has tended to stagger sleepily into games and often faces a double digit deficit in the first half. The Bulldogs almost always battle back and rarely get blown out—but it’s so hard to complete big comebacks like that night after night. It’s hard to say what might be causing these slow starts, but Butler has to find a way to improve its first half performance.