So, this is how one of the worst rebounding teams in the country can upset the No.9-ranked team: take them out of their game.
Oh, Saint Louis also managed to shoot 50-percent from the field.
The Bulldogs never got any breathing-room and couldn’t hold a lead for more than roughly three minutes. That kind of pressure forces the Bulldogs into the paint (which is the right idea) but that’s where Butler is at its weakest.
In their four losses this season, the Bulldogs shot just 71-percent (28 of 39) from the line and Thursday night’s 69-percent performance was hardly any different. In fact, Butler’s FT-percentage was so high because of a 7-of-9 showing from the line in the second half.
Free-throws are the fall-back option for Butler, which likes to use Rotnei Clarke (43-percent 3-pt) and Kellen Dunham (38-percent 3-pt) on the perimeter to put teams on their heels. Thursday night’s game showed that the Bulldogs don’t take well to being faced with defending their style of play.
Saint Louis forced Butler to commit 16 first-half turnovers and finish with 23 for the game. A seven-TO half isn’t terrible but the Bulldogs were clearly rattled after halftime. The Billikens took advantage of the momentum to set up Jordair Jett for a pair of 3-pointers in the first half and that worked like a charm in more ways than one.
Not only did Jett connect twice from deep en route to 14 of his 17 points in the first half alone, but Butler stuck to him like glue in the second, opening up the floor for Mike McCall Jr. to hit three treys in the second.
Saint Louis didn’t connect for an insane amount of 3-pointers but Butler’s over-commitment to defending the perimeter allowed the Billikens to dominate inside to the tune of a 51-22 advantage in points in the paint. SLU also held a 26-12 edge in points off turnovers and 19-2 in fast-break points, which explains the points in the paint more.
Again, Saint Louis was out-rebounded 37-29, they aren’t a physical post-up team. However, the Billikens’ speed was enough to take down Butler.
SLU proved that exposing a team’s weakness just a couple of times can force them into an entirely different game plan. Teams can’t win by getting away from what they know and Butler learned that lesson the hard way.
Mike Gillmeister can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter:@mgillmei. Like his Facebook page here for updates on Big 12/A-1o men’s basketball.