Butler basketball shows some fight, but falls short vs. No. 12 Marquette
Butler basketball had a week off to regroup.
A week off to find a way to be competitive with go-to scorer Chuck Harris (concussion) out.
A week off to try something new and possibly get new players involved.
A week off to find some way to end its four-game losing streak on the road against No. 12 Marquette.
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The time off helped a bit, but ultimately it was more of the same for the struggling Bulldogs. Marquette started quickly, took a 12-point lead into halftime and held on for a 60-52 win over Butler on Saturday at Fiserv Forum.
The loss is Butler's fifth in a row. The Dawgs fall to 11-13 overall and 3-10 in the Big East. Marquette moves to 19-5 overall and 11-2 in conference.
Here are three reasons Butler fell to Marquette.
Tough shot makers needed
Chuck Harris is Butler's most dynamic scorer. He suffered a concussion after taking a blow to the head last Saturday against Seton Hall and did not play against the Golden Eagles. Without Harris, Butler needed someone to make a contested shot against Marquette's long zone defense.
Butler started 1-of-5 from the field and managed just two field goals in the first 8:35 of the first half. Marquette's length and pressure on the ball prevented the Dawgs from getting anything easy. Marquette cut off entry passes to the post, doubled down low whenever the Dawgs got the ball inside and contested perimeter shots with aggressive close outs.
When Butler needed a bucket late in the first half, a costly turnover by Eric Hunter Jr. compounded by a technical foul on Ali Ali stole any chance Butler had at generating momentum in the first half.
"I'm not sure I've ever seen s*** like that before in my life," Matta said. "You couldn't draw that up. And I made a mistake, I should've had somebody else do something. But no, that was, wow.
"I will say this, I think our guys came back out and fought where a couple weeks ago, we probably wouldn't have done that. That was one of the craziest endings to a half. ... Everything that transpired in that time was stuff that had been covered. And so that one, can't get that back."
The Dawgs needed someone with Harris' first-step quickness to threaten the defense off the dribble and create for teammates. Jayden Taylor got his own shot, and Simas Lukosius found his shooting touch in the second half but it was too little too late.
Marquette had five players score at least eight points against Butler. That type of complete offensive team performance has eluded Butler during its losing skid. Butler won the rebounding battle (32-28) and did a much better job protecting the paint.
Lukosius is deadly when he's on but struggles with consistency. Eric Hunter Jr. and Manny Bates have largely been absent offensively after strong starts to the season. The Dawgs finally did some of the little things it takes to win, but the one big thing — scoring — continues to be a struggle.
"(Marquette is) long, they're athletic, and with the switching, a lot of times when you're playing a team, you can say, 'Okay, we're really attacking the switch,'" Matta said. "They load up and they get out of the switch when they got a second to do it."
Jayden Taylor shines in return to starting lineup
Taylor made the most of his first start since Dec. 22, leading Butler with 19 points. The sophomore guard was aggressive attacking the basket, showing off his patented pull-up jumper, contact finishing and sweet-shooting touch from deep.
The Perry Meridian grad started the season playing like a potential All-Big East candidate. He averaged 13.4 points per game in 13 starts before moving to the bench. Taylor first gave way to Jalen Thomas and then Ali Ali in the starting lineup. Taylor embraced a gritty sixth-man role, continuing to play tough defense and leading the second unit in scoring. His play against Marquette re-solidified himself as one of Butler's five best players.
When Harris comes back, Taylor needs to stay in the starting five, replacing Ali Ali or moving Harris or Lukosius to the point guard and installing Hunter Jr. as a sixth man. On a team that often lacks fight and struggles to play from behind, Taylor regularly displays the toughness Butler sorely needs.
Time for more new blood
With Harris out, Myles Tate and Myles Wilmoth earned extended minutes off the bench. Jalen Thomas earned the most minutes off the bench and played strong defense. Tate missed time with an illness and did not receive consistent playing time upon returning.
Tate was a key contributor as a freshman under LaVall Jordan, but injuries and illness have sapped much of the past two seasons. Butler needs players capable of playing at a Big East-level. A healthy Tate has shown the ability to do that. The junior from South Carolina has a chance to play himself back into Thad Matta's rotation in Harris' absence. Wilmoth has shown flashes as well. One players oddly absent from the rotation is Pierce Thomas.
Pierce Thomas is a matchup nightmare in transition and has the athletic ability to be a stopper defensively. Matta has not shown a willingness to expand his rotation, but a healthy and explosive player like Thomas could provide a spark.
"We turned it over 19 times, shot 38% and had a chance solely on (how) we competed today," Matta said. "We kept fighting. They threw a haymaker at us to start the game and we didn't panic, I thought Myles (Tate) and Myles (Wilmoth), and Jalen came in and gave us a real boost."
Follow IndyStar Butler Insider Akeem Glaspie on Twitter at @THEAkeemGlaspie.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Butler basketball vs. Marquette: Bulldogs fall to 3-10 in Big East