Butler’s game plan on Sunday was to contain the nation’s leading scorer, Markus Howard. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Marquette has several other weapons in the arsenal. Howard was limited to just 17 points (he averages 27.9), but the Golden Eagles blew Butler away, prevailing by a score of 76-57.
Butler actually made one more field goal than Marquette and won the turnover battle, but the Golden Eagles buried seven more triples and converted 14 more free throws. Koby McEwen and Brendan Bailey were terrific for Marquette, scoring 16 points apiece and combining to shoot 8-11 from behind the arc.
Despite the hot shooting from McEwen and Bailey, Marquette’s defensive effort was the key in this one. Kamar Baldwin led all scorers with 23 points and Bryce Nze scored 14, but the rest of the Bulldogs combined to shoot just 7-35. Sean McDermott, the team’s second-leading scorer, scored just two points and only had one good look all game, a layup which he missed.
Marquette has now won six of its last seven after a slow start to Big East play. The Golden Eagles have vaulted into a tie for second place in the conference and look like one of the strongest teams in the league at this point. Meanwhile, Butler has fallen back into a tie for fifth.
Butler: Can’t Keep Up
Butler has built its so far successful season on defense—but what happens when they come across a team that can’t be stopped? The Bulldogs probably could have defended Marquette better, but for the most part, they did a pretty good job. Howard had to work for every point he got and Butler played very physical, not allowing any easy buckets. But Marquette continued to attack, drawing fouls and making free throws, and making big threes. No matter how well you defend, you’ll come up against teams that are in a rhythm offensively and can’t be stopped. In those cases, Butler doesn’t appear to have the offensive firepower to keep up. Baldwin had a good shooting night but had just one assist. Butler needs to find a way to get other guys involved, whether that’s having Baldwin play off the ball or having him facilitate more. In any case, they can’t expect to beat good offensive teams if they aren’t getting anything from McDermott, Jordan Tucker, and Bryce Golden.
Marquette: Helping Howard
Howard is one of the nation’s most prolific scorer and every team that faces Marquette will be looking for strategies to stop him. In this game, Butler did a solid job of limiting his looks, but McEwen and Bailey benefited from all the attention given to Howard with open looks that they knocked down. Marquette is a nightmare for teams when they are moving the ball and Howard’s teammates are hitting threes. If McEwen and Bailey can continue to knock down shots consistently, it will become a pick-your-poison situation for opposing defenses.
Butler hosts Xavier on Wednesday, February 12, at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Marquette plays at Villanova on Wednesday, February 12, at 8:30 p.m. ET.