The Butler Bulldogs (14-2, 3-1) have put that shock loss to St. John’s in their Big East opener well and truly behind them. Since that setback, the Bulldogs have won their next three conference games. They smoked Providence 78-61 at home as they shot close to 62 percent from the field. They then became the first team this season to knock off No. 1 Villanova. They were pushed to overtime in their most recent game against Georgetown, but they showed their class in the extra period and came away with the 85-76 road win.
Leading scorer Kelan Martin (17.4 PPG) has had a slow start to conference play. He’s averaging 13.3 PPG on just 32.7 percent shooting through four games. However, senior transfer Kethan Savage has been a surprising source of points. He’s averaging 11 PPG, and has hit in double-figures in all four conference games thus far. Senior forward Andrew Chrabascz has also been fairly consistent, and is averaging 11.7 PPG after his disappointing 4-point performance against St. John’s.
Meanwhile, the defense has been very good. The Bulldogs are giving up just 67.8 PPG (No. 1 in the Big East), and have continued doing a fine job defending the 3-point line. They’re holding their opposition to just 29.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc on the season, and 27.7 percent in conference play. Butler is a perfect 4-0 against ranked opposition this season, with wins over No. 8 Arizona, No. 22 Cincinnati, and No. 9 Indiana during nonconference play as well as its conference win over Villanova.
Unlike their opponents, No. 8 Creighton (15-1, 3-1) couldn’t quite get the win over Villanova, which has been the only team to beat the Bluejays this season. Since that loss, though, Creighton has put up back-to-back blowout wins over St. John’s (85-72) and Providence (78-64). They also beat Seton Hall 89-75 in the conference opener, all three of Creighton’s Big East wins have been by double-digits.
Seven-foot freshman center Justin Patton has been an absolute beast during conference play. Patton is putting up 20 PPG on a sizzling 71 percent shooting, with 8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks to lead a high-powered Creighton offense that’s averaging 87.5 PPG (No. 11 in the nation) and leading the nation in field goal percentage (53.7 percent). Marcus Foster, the team’s leading scorer on the season with 18.6 PPG, is still chipping in with 17.3 PPG in his past four games, while point guard Maurice Watson Jr. is averaging a strong 14.3 PPG and 9.5 APG. The senior playmaker just dropped a season-high 14 dimes in his most recent game against Providence.
Keys to the Game
- Stay aggressive. Creighton is a foul-happy team and sends its opponents to the free throw line at an alarmingly high rate. Butler – Kelan Martin in particular – needs to attack that defense whenever possible and get some easy points at the line.
- Limit the 3s. Butler is holding opponents to just 29.9 percent from the 3-point line, and will need one of its best defensive performances of the season to keep a Creighton team shooting 42 percent from 3 (4th in the country) relatively quiet.
- The Creighton guards need to attack. Foster and Watson have the ability to get to the rack consistently, and they should look to do so often with Butler’s lack of rim protection.
- Keep feeding Patton. The freshman has been exceptional in recent games, and will have a decided size advantage against Butler’s short frontcourt.
Projected Butler Starting Lineup
G Kamar Baldwin (Freshman) | G Tyler Lewis (Senior) | F Kelan Martin (Junior) | F Tyler Wideman (Junior) | F Andrew Chrabascz (Senior)
Projected Creighton Starting Lineup
G Maurice Watson Jr. (Senior) | G Marcus Foster (Junior) | G Khyri Thomas (Sophomore) |F Cole Huff (Senior) | C Justin Patton (Freshman)
Creighton’s size, speed, and sheer offensive firepower will be too much for Butler to overcome on the road. The Bluejays notch a big win over the Bulldogs tonight.
Tip-Off is at 9pm ET on Fox Sports 1 – CenturyLink Center – Omaha, NE