Rushed Reactions: #6 Butler 68, #11 Bucknell 56Posted by IRenko on March 21st, 2013
I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Thursday’s Second Round game between Butler and Bucknell. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Mike Muscala Could Not Get It Going — All eyes were on Bucknell’s Mike Muscala this afternoon, and the big man shrunk under the spotlight. He got off to a poor start, scoring just two points in the first half on 1-of-9 FG shooting. He started to find the net a bit in the second half, as the Bison climbed back from a double-digit deficit to make it a competitive game. But he never developed a good rhythm, and at the end of the day, Bucknell needed more than his nine points on 4-of-17 shooting. Butler’s defense gets some credit, but Muscala missed a lot of shots that he typically makes.
- Not That Easy on the Eyes — Apart from an exciting stretch in the middle of the second half, this game was plagued by ineffective offense. Butler hardly put on an offensive clinic, but Bucknell was the biggest offender. After shooting a miserable 25.9 percent from the field in the first half, they couldn’t find a consistent rhythm in second. Apart from a pair of lightning quick runs that actually gave them a six-point lead, the offense continued to struggle. And it wasn’t just Muscala who struggled. The Bison’s second and third leading scorers, guards Cameron Ayers (12.5 ppg) and Bryson Johnson (11.1 ppg), continued the disappearing act that they unveiled in the Patriot League tournament, combining for 0 points on 0-of-4 FG shooting in the first half.
- Butler Overcame Its Cold Shooting — Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham combined to make more than 150 threes this year, but against Bucknell, the two were stone cold. They shot a combined 2-of-9 from three-point range and missed several two-point jumpers, combining to go 5-of-18 from the field. The two guards made up for their poor shooting, though, by taking care of the ball. Turnovers have plagued the Bulldogs’ guards all season, but Clarke and Dunham committed none today.
Star of the Game: With Butler’s shooters in a game-long cold spell, it fell to Roosevelt Jones to ignite the offense with his unorthodox game. Perhaps it was fitting that Jones, who resembles a fullback in appearance and style of play, was the star of a contest that had a 21-14 football-like score at halftime. Jones’ ugly shotput runners in the lane and ragged drives to the basket epitomized the ugly nature of Butler’s win. He finished with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and added five boards and four assists. The turnover-prone guard also had just one miscue.
Quotable: “They’ve played in so many big games. They’re not the kind of team that’s gonna get rattled.” — Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen, on Butler’s resilience after a 19-2 run gave Bucknell a six-point lead in the second half
Sights & Sounds: Their season may have ended with a humiliating NIT defeat, but not all Kentucky fans have gone into hiding. There were many members of Big Blue Nation at Rupp proudly sporting their UK gear, no doubt wishing they had somewhere else to be. Grumblings about the season could be overheard here and there, but credit the Wildcat faithful for not shrinking from sight.
Wildcard: Muscala’s less well-known and underrated frontcourt mate, Joe Willman, did his best to pick up the slack for his teammates’ ineffectiveness. Willman virtually carried the Bison with his deadly jump-shooting, hitting eight long twos en route to a 20-point performance on 10-of-16 FG shooting.
What’s Next? Butler will return to Rupp in two days seeking its fifth Sweet Sixteen appearance in the last 11 years, against the winner of the Marquette-Davidson game.