Butler keeps Wisconsin quiet for 35 minutes, wins 61-54

8-1.

That is the combined record of a tiny university in Indianapolis in the NCAA Tournament over the last two years.

7-31.

That was the combined FGM/ FGA for the two best players on a Wisconsin team that had taken pride in so many things over the season, and with very good reason to do so. Then they ran into that tiny private university and, for around thirty-five minutes, everything went horribly wrong.

Ball control? The Badgers were harassed into 11 turnovers for the game, mostly in a first half while Butler began building their lead (the Bulldogs had 13 turnovers, and most of them came in the final minutes when they faced something that they probably have not seen very much of in a full court press).

Three point shooting? Wisconsin finished the game slightly better from behind the arc than expected after a late flurry by Jordan Taylor, but finished 7-29 from three, good for 24%. Taylor and John Leuer combined for 4-16, and both appeared to be lulled into taking deep jumpers by the Bulldogs.

But what about the superstars? While Leuer and Taylor were putting up numbers they might never want to be reminded of again, Matt Howard was forcing the issue and getting to the charity stripe (9-10 FT's), grabbing some tough rebounds (12 total for him. which doubled Wisconsin's game high rebounder, Leuer), and hitting some timely three pointers to help swell Butler's lead to as much as 20 points.

Shelvin Mack, although harassed into a 4-12 shooting night himself, hit the de facto dagger for the Bulldogs on a tough fallaway jumper in the final minute. In the end, Butler's guys played like winners, and Wisconsin's guys, despite giving a heck of an effort towards the end of the game, looked confused, lost against a team that is far more tough and physical than it looks.

Wisconsin now will go home and take their break before getting ready for another grind in the Big Ten, and Butler will make their second straight Elite Eight appearance against 2-seed Florida, who has beaten the Bulldogs twice in the Tournament since the turn of the century.

For those interested in seeing the stats from this game, as well as more thoughts on the Bulldogs and Badgers, follow me after the jump!

Stat Breakdown

 

 

 

Butler

Wisconsin

Points Per Minute

1.52

1.35

Points Per Shot

1.36

0.96

2 PT FG%

51.8%

37%

3 PT FG%

27.8% 24.1%

FT%

69.2% 68.4%

True Shooting %

54%

42%

 

 

 

Assists

7

9

Steals

8

7

Turnovers

14

11

BCI (Assists + Steals/ TOVS)

1.07

1.45

 

 

 

Total Rebounds

37

31

Offensive Rebounds

10

12

 

- Looking at the game stats as a whole, a few numbers surprisingly are in Wisconsin's favor (BCI, offensive rebounds). While managed to make the game closer both on paper and in the final score, the game was won in the the last five minutes of the first half, and the first six minutes of the first half. During that stretch, the Badgers did not hit a field goal while Butler pushed their lead to as much as 20 points.

- Butler also dominated ball control in the first half, forcing Wisconsin into 8 first half turnovers. At the end of twenty minutes, the Bulldogs had a BCI of 7.33. and Wisconsin's was 0.75. Obviously the tables turned in that area in the end, mostly thanks to Butler's ineffectiveness against the press as well as only 3 turnovers in the 2nd half by the Badgers.

- Wisconsin clawed all the way back to within 4 points twice in the final 1:40 of the game, but it was simply too big a hole for them to get out of. The approximately 11 minute stretch where Wisconsin did not make a field goal was killer. That said, they may have exposed a Butler weakness with that full court press. Something tells me Brad Stevens will have his guys work on that before their game on Saturday.

 

- Both teams only had six players who scored points (which should make any old school Big Ten fan proud), and both had a player with 20 points or more (Taylor surprisingly was the game-high scorer with 22), but Butler had three guys in double figures compared to just one for Wiscy, and the Bulldogs were much better in terms of offensive efficiency.

- Matt Howard must have spent a long, long time in the gym last Summer developing that long jumpshot. When his three pointers went in, they were about as pretty as pretty can be in terms of jumpers.

- Speaking of three pointers, that NBA shot by Chase Stigall from the top of the key in the first half was sweet. He didn't have a very good game outside of that one shot, but damn did his one made bucket look good.

- Switching to the inside of the arc, Jon Leuer was 0-6 from two to go along with his 1-6 three point shooting. It was not pretty in the senior's final game as a Badger.

- I could spend plenty of bullet points on the disappearing acts pulled by Wisconsin players (Josh Gasser), but I would like to commend Mike Bruesewitz for his scrappy effort yesterday. Despite going 03 from three point land and turning the ball over in the final seconds, effectively ending Wiscy's chances of winning, the flying tomato was effective in simply creating havoc, playing hard on defense, and pulling down some rebounds for his team. I was honestly shocked when I checked the boxscoreat halftime and it said that Bruesewitz only had one rebound. He may not be a superstar, but Mike will be an important player for the next two season, and I expect good things from him.

- As for the X-Factor of the game for Butler, Khyle Marshall had 7 points (3-3 shooting), 7 rebounds (4 offensive), a steal, and a block for the Dawgs in 17 minutes. He was a nice sub for Andrew Smith, especially when Smith was on the bench with a painful ankle injury (he would return).

 

Final Verdict

I'm sure Wisconsin fans are beating themselves up for yet another disappearing act on the offensive end of the floor, but I give the Badgers credit for almost toppling the Dawgs when the game seemed long ago concluded. Butler looked completely out of sorts against the pressure defense, and as a result it almost cost them the game.

The fact of the matter is that Butler, while without the presence of Gordon Hayward, is still a tough and experienced team that plays hard on defense and smart on offense. They have good players, and said players all know their roles in Brad Stevens's system of classic, team-oriented basketball. Wisconsin is known for running a similar style, but the Bulldogs simply made more plays and hounded great players like Jon Leuer and Jordon Taylor into simply awful games.

In the end, it was still a great season for the Badgers. Most people won't complain about getting to watch a talented team beat the likes of Ohio State and get to the Sweet Sixteen. It didn't end how they wanted it to, but only one team gets to leave the Big Dance with a smile on their face, and odds are still against Butler that they will be that team.

The final Big Ten team standing is Ohio State, the number one overall seed. The Buckeyes looked dominant against George Mason, but will have tough outs from this point onward, starting (and possibly ending) with Kentucky, who has been hot to end the season.

Butler now will face yet another athletic team in Florida, who has never looked really dominant this season, but simply keeps winning games. Sound familiar?  The Dawgs have had tough outs since the first round, and this won't be any different. It is now certain that Butler is still for real, and Saturday we'll see if they can keep on trucking in the madness.

 

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