NEWARK, N.J. – It is one thing to get good looks and not have them fall. It is another to have your team not playing to its ability. The latter point is a concern of Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard. Butler edged the Hall 64-57 at the Prudential Center on Wednesday. It was the second (2-7) Big East win for the visiting Bulldogs. Seton Hall fell to 3-4.
“This group has ability but they are just not using it,” Willard said following the defeat. “It is something that has me perplexed.” Willard pointed out two late transition opportunities and a few open jumpers in the stretch saw the Hall come up empty.” Those are shots we hit but give Butler credit for their defense.”
The Bulldog defense held Seton Hall to 40 percent shooting. Of greater importance, their resiliency and willingness to stay competitive paid off, especially in the stretch of a tough road game. Butler is a team with three heartbreaking overtime losses in conference play. And they have no intent of packing it in. The contest saw eight ties and thirteen lead changes. Butler did not resemble a team entering with a 1-7 conference mark.
Butler showed balance with four double digit scorers. The leader, Khyle Marshall, had 13 points. Fuquan Edwin paced Seton Hall with 20 points. Brandon Mobley, with ten points, ten rebounds and five blocks, was singled out by Willard for his physically aggressive play in the paint. As a team, Willard was hard-pressed to commend other team members for their efforts.
I shared a story with Butler head coach Brandon Miller, who worked under Brad Stevens, spending his current days on the sidelines in TD Bank Arena. Last season after Butler defeated Dayton in an Atlantic 10 Tournament game, yours truly had the opportunity to meet Stevens. As an advocate of analytics it was exciting to meet the well-known and admired Stevens, himself a huge devotee of numbers in basketball. Following a nervous (on my part) introduction we discussed tempo free trends. When we talked numbers the nervousness was gone and you had the feeling you were discussing topics with a long-time friend.
“That is one of Stevens strong parts,” Miller said. “He could make anyone feel very comfortable and at ease. He had that great ability and it worked well dealing with his coaching staff and players. Hast ability to connect was such a strong part of him.”
It’s safe to say that example has influenced Miller significantly.