For much of the first round NCAA Tournament game between the Butler Bulldogs and Bucknell Bison both teams overwhelmed the other with stifling defense. It was only in the latter part of the second half that both offenses began to catch fire, and by then it was the Bulldogs that found a way to make enough shots to secure the win and a trip to the second round.
Both teams entered the game with the reputation of being stout defensive teams, and that was on full display in the first half, which was a slugfest that ended with Butler leading 21-14. The key player entering the game for Bucknell was senior center Mike Muscala, who averaged 19 points during the regular season. Brad Stevens used a multitude of different players to defend him, hoping to keep him off balance. For the most part, that strategy worked, as Muscala was held to just 9 points on 4-17 shooting. The Bison did make a big run to take a lead in the second half behind a surprising performance from senior Joe Willman, who scored 20 points, double his season average. However, without the usual scoring punch from Muscala, Bucknell could not generate enough offense to compete with the Bulldogs for 40 minutes.
Defensively, Bucknell played as well as they have all season, forcing Butler to miss their first 14 shot attempts from beyond the arc. In the end, Bulldog’s sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke made a pair of shots from deep to help Butler put the game away. It wasn’t the offensive effort that Stevens would have liked to see early in the tournament, but it was enough to get the win, which is what the Bulldogs will look to do as the tournament continues. Butler may not have showcased the offensive firepower they’ll need to make another deep tournament run, but the Bulldog’s defense is right where they need it to be.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him to your network on Google+.