Butler Falls In BIG EAST Opening Round
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Butler staged a furious second half comeback, but fell just short and dropped a 51-50 decision to Seton Hall in the opening round of the BIG EAST Tournament Presented by NEW YORK LIFE on Wednesday, March 12. The loss at Madison Square Garden snapped Butler's two-game winning streak and left the Bulldogs with a 14-17 record for the season.
Seton Hall (16-16), seeded eighth in the tournament, took advantage of Butler's cold shooting and built a 13-point lead over the ninth-seeded Bulldogs with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game.
But the Bulldogs didn't quit. Led by senior Khyle Marshall, Butler went on an 18-6 run and closed the margin to a single point, 51-50, with under a minute remaining. Marshall scored six of the 18 points during the run.
Butler had an opportunity to take the lead with 13 seconds remaining, but a turnover stopped the bid. The Bulldogs fouled Seton Hall's Brandon Mobley with four seconds left, and Mobley missed the free throw to give Butler one final chance. That opportunity ended when a half-court shot by junior Alex Barlow bounced off the backboard.
"I loved the resiliency of our guys; the toughness in our guys in order to come back in that game," said Butler head coach Brandon Miller after the contest. "There were multiple times we could have easily given up and laid down, but we didn't. We fought, but like I told our guys, there are some nights that are just not your night."
That fact that the Bulldogs had a chance to win the game at the end was a testament to their resolve and their defensive effort. Despite shooting just 35.7% from the field and just 9.1% from beyond the three-point arc in the first 20 minutes, Butler trailed by just a single point at halftime, 23-22.
Butler leading scorer Kellen Dunham, who tallied 29 points against Seton Hall just four days earlier, was 0-3 from the field in the first half, while Barlow, who was averaging 10.7 points over Butler's previous seven games, was 0-7.
"They struggled tonight," Miller said of his two guards. "Seton Hall did a good job of staying on Kellen and knew where he was at all times. K.D. did a pretty good job of moving without the ball, but at the same time they had an awareness of where he was."
"Alex has played as well as he has in his entire career of the last few games, and he just didn't make shots tonight," added Miller. "He had some looks, but they just didn't go in."
A continued cold spell early in the second half allowed Seton Hall to pull away to a double-digit lead. The margin grew to 45-32 with 9:45 remaining, before the Bulldogs staged their comeback.
Marshall was nearly unstoppable for the Bulldogs. He hit 10 of 15 shots in the game and finished with 22 points. He also pulled down seven rebounds, including five offensive boards, and added two blocked shots and a steal. But he was the only Butler player to score in double-figures.
Junior Kameron Woods added seven points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while freshman Andrew Chrabascz chipped in with seven points.
Eugene Teague, who was dominant inside, led the Pirates with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Brian Oliver and Fuquan Edwin added 10 points apiece.
The game was the third meeting this season between the two teams. Butler won the first two meetings, including a 71-54 decision on March 8 at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Seton Hall advances to meet top-seeded Villanova on Thursday, March 13, at noon.