Butler visits No. 14 Creighton seeking another upset

NCAA Basketball

The Butler Bulldogs look like the team no one in the Big East would want to face in next week’s conference tournament.

In a season marred by injuries to key players and numerous COVID-19 postponements, Butler (9-13, 8-11 Big East) has remained competitive in conference and recorded a pair of wins over top-10 opponents, including Sunday’s upset over then-No. 8 Villanova.

Chuck Harris scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half and Jair Bolden scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half against Villanova. Butler made 10 three-pointers overall while holding Villanova to just 2-for-27 shooting from beyond the arc.

“I felt like our guys deserved it,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “From start to finish, they executed the game plan, played through mistakes and played all the way through.”

The Bulldogs will next travel to Omaha to play the other team they beat when it was in the top 10 — the No. 14 Creighton Bluejays (17-7, 13-6).

Creighton, unlike Butler, could not take down Villanova, losing 72-60 on Wednesday night as the Wildcats leapfrogged the Bluejays and secured the conference regular-season title.

Mitch Ballock led the Bluejays with 14 points in the loss while Damien Jefferson finished with 13 points.

It was the first game back on the sideline for Bluejays coach Greg McDermott after he apologized on social media for urging his players to “stay on the plantation” over the weekend.

“We need to get back to Omaha and regroup a little and have some more conversations, which we need to have so that I can help them, and they can help me,” McDermott said.

McDermott said on the team’s radio show that he offered to resign, and met with players on Sunday night, but they did not ask for his resignation.

However, the Big East released a statement Wednesday that stated: “There is no place in our society for language that evokes painful chapters in our nation’s history.”

“The pain I saw in their eyes was immense,” said McDermott, Creighton’s coach since 2010. “That’s a cross that I’m going to have to bear for a while. I’m going to come out of this on the other end a better person because of it. But it’s going to be a process.”

Against Villanova, Bryce Nze posted his fifth double-double of the season, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Bo Hodges (calf) returned to Butler’s rotation. Hodges scored seven points and had four assists in 21 minutes. But the Bulldogs remained short-handed as Aaron Thompson remained out with thumb and shoulder injuries and Chris David (knee) sat out as well.

Thompson had 17 points and six assists on Jan. 16 when Butler rallied from a 13-point deficit to upset Creighton 70-66 in overtime in Indianapolis. Myles Tate had 15 points and 10 rebounds in that game, and Nze had 15 points and nine rebounds. Denzel Mahoney had 29 points and seven rebounds for Creighton in the loss.

Marcus Zegarowski (14.7 points per game) and Mahoney (13.4 points) lead the Bluejays in scoring.

Harris (12.0 points) and Bolden (11.3 points) remain Butler’s top scorers.

–Field Level Media

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