INDIANAPOLIS – It won't be difficult to discern something amiss at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Wednesday. There will be something very large (83 inches worth) not on the court as usual when the Bulldogs (20-4, 7-2) host Atlantic 10 foe Charlotte (17-6, 5-4) at 7 p.m.
Senior center Andrew Smith suffered an abdominal injury in Saturday's hold-on-for-dear-life victory at George Washington and will miss both the Charlotte game, as well as Saturday's game at Fordham.
Smith has started 91 of the past 93 games for Butler, so Bulldog coach Brad Stevens is a bit perplexed as to how to adjust.
“I don't know,” Stevens responded when asked about how to deal with the situation. “You have a number of different options. You can go with (Erik Fromm), who has started games before. You could go with Kameron Woods, who has been playing great. Or you could go with a guy like Chase (Stigall) or Kellen (Dunham) and go really small.”
Regardless of the strategy that Stevens devises, a bigger issue may not be the hole in the middle, but the struggles on the perimeter.
Two of Butler's recent opponents – George Washington and Saint Louis – may have found a game plan that works against the Bulldogs.
As talented as Bulldog guards Rotnei Clarke and Dunham are, they aren't physically imposing. And the Colonials, with the Billikens prior to that, took full advantage of that.
“(George Washington) was very physical,” Stevens said. “It was very physical.”
In the two aforementioned games, Butler has turned the ball over a combined 42 times and lost at Saint Louis, while nearly blowing a 17-point lead at George Washington.
“Our guys did a pretty good job at times (in building a 17-point lead),” Stevens said. “But also didn't do as good of job at other times (in blowing that lead).”
No. 10-ranked Butler currently ranks first in the Atlantic 10 in the standings, but only 10th in turnovers (13.2 per game).
“When you watch (the George Washington game) on film, we weren't getting to our spots. We weren't cutting well. We weren't playing through contact the way that we need to.”
The Colonials applied full-court pressure throughout the second half to try and climb back into the game (it worked), and Butler appeared in so much disarray, it had trouble even inbounding the ball. And when the Bulldogs did get the ball inbounds, they seemingly invented ways to throw it away.
“We've had our issues, here in the very recent past,” Stevens said. “But we've been a good ball-handling team up to that point.”
Stevens has dealt with this issue before. In early February of 2010, his team went through a stretch of games where it turned it over from 17 times to 21 times. However, with players such as Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, and Matt Howard playing a Horizon League schedule, it was a bit easier to overcome than today's task.
“Hopefully, we can cure that as we have in the past,” Stevens said.