Butler seeks to avenge its worst loss of season

If the Butler men’s basketball players are seeking comfort, they need to get a room in the university’s new $40 million Fairview House dorm, because the Bulldog athletes won’t find anything relaxing about competing in the Big East Conference.

No. 15-ranked Butler (18-4, 7-3 BE) will host 22nd-ranked Creighton (19-3, 6-3) tonight, and it will surely prove to be just another miserable night in this league.

“Our guys understand,” third-year Butler coach Chris Holtmann said recently, “that we have a small margin for error and we could get beat by literally anybody on any given night.”

Less than three weeks ago, that “given night” was an 11-point loss at Creighton, which has proven to be the Bulldogs’ worst of this season, but not it’s most recent.

Butler allowed Georgetown to shoot nearly 64 percent from the field Saturday in an 85-81 loss at Hinkle Fieldhouse, which was – by far – the Bulldogs’ worst defensive performance of this season.

“Listen,” Holtmann said following that loss to the Hoyas, “if our guys don’t understand that they have to prove it every night, based on where we were picked in the league (sixth), if our guys don’t understand that, and understand what their approach has to be every night, then I’ve done a bad job communicating that to them.”

It’s doubtful that last statement has much validity, but Holtmann’s assessment that anything can happen within this league is very accurate.

St. John’s, Providence and DePaul were picked to be the worst three teams in the conference prior to the season and they have combined for nine victories through the first half of the league season.

Butler has already lost at St. John’s and had to overcome a 25-5 deficit in winning in overtime at DePaul.

“We need to find a way to play a lot better,” Holtmann said, “or it is going to be a very, very long few weeks.”

The Blue Jays have lost twice in a three-game stretch after losing their starting point guard (Maurice Watson) to a knee injury earlier this month. He was averaging nearly 13 points per game and led the Big East with 8.5 assists per game. However, they bounced back with a 17-point win over DePaul in Omaha recently and still have a lot of talent on their squad, including freshman center Justin Patton.

Patton is leading the Big East in field goal percentage (71.4 percent) and is averaging 14 points and almost seven rebounds per game.

The web site www.draftexpress.com recently unveiled its 2017 NBA Mock Draft and has Patton projected as a lottery selection.

“Every night you’ve got to be ready,” Butler senior forward Andrew Chrabascz said recently. “We have to look forward to (Tuesday) and a very good Creighton team. We have to prepare well for them.”

Butler played well against Georgetown offensively, but simply could not get defensive stops and Holtmann said his team “played with zero edge” in the loss. However, like Chrabascz said, Holtmann felt that having a short memory is a necessity in the Big East.

“It’s necessary when you are in a power league,” Holtmann said of moving forward after losses, “really in league play in general. It’s hard to do because the losses can certainly stay with you longer than the wins can.

“But the reality is, you are trying to keep a long term approach as much as possible. If you’ve been a part of a power league or a good league, you know that most teams are going to get beat up a number of times.”

Defending Big East and National Champion Villanova has spent several weeks as the nation’s best team this season and it already has a couple of losses in the Big East.

The Wildcats are a game up on Butler, which is a one game ahead of Creighton, which is one game in front of Xavier. A win by the Bulldogs can give them some – though ever so slight – separation from the middle pack of the league and keep them in contention for a league title.

Butler holds the tiebreaker currently with Villanova after beating them at Hinkle earlier this month.

“The question is,” Holtmann pondered after losing at Creighton earlier this month, “is how will we respond? This is not going to get any bit easier and hopefully our guys understand that.” <br>

<i> For more on Butler basketball follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 or on Facebook at Thomas Davis. </i><br>

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Tip-off: Creighton at Butler, 7 tonight

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