By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
NEWARK, NJ - Entering the Prudential Center, Butler was riding a three-game win streak. Seton Hall was coming off a strong performance and victory over St. John’s. That stopped the Pirates’ three-game losing streak, getting them back on track. At least that was what Pirate coach Kevin Willard hoped. In the end, Butler faced challenges and responded with a 61-54 victory. Butler is 7-2 in the Big East, while Seton Hall fell to 3-5.
Butler finishes the first half of the Big East schedule tied for the lead with Villanova. “I have no reaction to that,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “It’s a long season, there is a lot of basketball to be played.”
First five possessions:
Seton Hall: Field goal, missed FG, turnover, missed FG, missed FG
Butler: Turnover, missed FG, missed FG, missed FG, three-point FG
Butler led 3-2 at the 16:51 mark of the opening stanza, somewhat of a microcosm of their last two games, when Butler rallied from double-digit deficits to defeat Marquette and DePaul. Seton Hall, through those initial possessions, had good looks, made plays on the defensive end and controlled tempo. With the stroke of a Kamar Baldwin perimeter shot, Butler had the lead.
First half observations:
Even if your rooting interest is Seton Hall, as a basketball purist, you must admire Butler, especially on defense. With good positioning, contesting shots and not being one to take chances, the Bulldogs are fun to watch...except if you have to play them.
He has size, strength, toughness - all attributes of a great rebounder, but do not forget Angel Delgado of Seton Hall also has a nose for the ball in traffic.
Andrew Chrabascz of Butler is an important part of their offense. The 6-foot-7 senior averages 11 points per game. Of greater importance is his ability to pass out of the post, screen and of course, rebound.
The last eight minutes of the half saw three field goals for Butler, four for Seton Hall as the Bulldogs led 26-19 at the break. In a 33-possession grind, Butler led 79-59 in offensive efficiency. Another Pirate stat of dubious note was just one assist against seven turnovers.
Second half observations:
The first four minutes of the second half belonged to Butler. Their 11-7 advantage stretched the lead to eleven. Seton Hall made several runs, and each time Butler was able to regroup and answer.
As the second half is played out the question is, will momentum shift if Seton Hall gains a lead? A Myles Powell three-pointer provides a chance to answer the question, as his shot gives the Hall a 45-44 lead with just over six minutes remaining.
Butler was able to respond and had a two-possession lead and the ball with a minute left. They milked clock, then shot a three. It was missed, but the Bulldogs secured the rebound, forcing Seton Hall to foul. The final fifty seconds saw Butler miss a few from the charity stripe, but Seton Hall failed to capitalize.
“We knew it would be a game of runs,” Butler’s Chrabascz said. “We expected it, we just kept our defense together.”
Possessions: Butler 70, Seton Hall 68
Offensive efficiency: Butler 87, Seton Hall 79
eFG%: Butler 43, Seton Hall 32
Free Throw Rate: Butler 50, Seton Hall 28
Offensive Rebound%: Butler 19, Seton Hall 34
Turnover Rate: Butler 16, Seton Hall 18
Leading scorers and EF:
Butler: Andrew Chrabascz 16 points, EF 25
Seton Hall: Desi Rodriguez 12 points EF 15, Angel Delgado 12 points, EF 33, Khadeen Carrington 12 points, EF 16
What Butler did well: Weather the runs of Seton Hall. Butler also cared for the ball extremely well in a game featuring some tough defensive pressure.
What Seton Hall did well: Make those runs and rebound. The Hall led 18-8 in raw offensive board numbers.
There were five lead changes and four ties. Angel Delgado led all rebounders with 22, seven on the offensive glass. Kelan Martin paced Butler with 11. Kethan Savage drew praise from both coaches. The 6-foot-3 Butler senior came off the bench to post an excellent 15-point, 10-rebound outing. Disparity in free throw rate was deceptive, as Seton Hall; trailing, was in a fouling mode the final minute.