Sunday, December 5, 2010

Butler Down But Not Out Following Loss to Duke

Posted by CoHoops DeAnte Mitchell
The Butler Bulldogs (4-3), last years runner-ups, recently fell to the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils (8-0) 82-70.

With 13:04 left in the second half Ronald Nored picked up a cheap fourth foul after grazing Nolan Smith on a three-point attempt that sidelined him with his fourth foul.

At the 12:48 mark in the second half, Shelvin Mack fired up a three and came down awkwardly.

Many people found out later that it was leg cramps, and instead of coming back in Mack sat for the rest of the game, which hurted the Bulldogs.

With those two on the bench, Duke's knockout punch was a 12-0 run that pushed the game out of range for Butler.

Howard returned only to pick up his fifth foul with 2:17 left in the game, with Shawn Vanzant working to pull Butler closer to the lead.

Thereafter, Duke knocked down nine straight free-throws and marched away with a 12-point victory in the National Championship rematch.

With Butler falling for the third time in seven games, the Bulldogs are off to their worst start since 2005-06. Now many people are starting to count Butler out, but that is not the right thing to do.

The Bulldogs are on a rough stretch with losses coming at Louisville, against Evansville and Duke.

Three losses in which Matt Howard faced foul trouble. Nored, Butler's best on-ball defender, and leader of the defense did not play against Evansville, and with all three, the Bulldogs were 10-minutes away from getting closure on the defending National Champs.

Butler also saw an emerging guard in Vanzant who can score the basketball on offense just as good as any player on the team. Andrew Smith, and Garret Butcher stepped up big for the Bulldogs in the post showing a lot of maturity.

If both can start finishing around the rim, the Bulldogs might establish a lot of depth in the frontcourt. Despite the (4-3) record, I expect the Bulldogs to improve as the season progresses.

The Bulldogs are back to health, hopefully, and have a chance to make a statement against the Xavier Musketeers (5-2) December 9, 9 PM ET.

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