Two Big East teams looking to ride the momentum of comeback victories meet Saturday when the Butler Bulldogs host the UConn Huskies in Indianapolis.
The Bulldogs (3-5, 2-3 Big East) picked up a much-needed win, 63-55 over Georgetown on Wednesday, also in Indianapolis. After scoring the first three points, they quickly fell behind and trailed by 11 nearly midway through the first half.
During a game-ending 17-4 run, however, Butler regained the lead with just under two minutes to play. Jair Bolden scored six in the span, including a 3-pointer to get Bulldogs even at 51-51. Bolden finished with 13 points, second to Chuck Harris’ 18.
Defense opened the door to the win, coach LaVall Jordan said.
“Our transition defense was not good in the first half; we didn’t get back and get set. We challenged our guys at halftime to make sure that they saw our half-court defense,” Jordan said. “We ran harder, talked more and our shot discipline on the offensive end helped our defense. And obviously having (Aaron Thompson) back makes a huge difference.”
Thompson, who sat out five games with a knee sprain, helped to hold Georgetown’s Jahvon Blair to 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Blair came in averaging 19 points per game.
In his three games, Thompson is averaging a team-leading 14.3 points, just ahead of Bolden (13.5) and Harris (12). The latter two are averaging 42.6 percent and 44.1 percent on 3-point attempts.
Butler’s 64.1 points per game, however, are in the bottom 40 in the NCAA. UConn’s defense, meanwhile, is in the top 50 in allowing 63.5 points and a 39.4 percent in field goal percentage. Opponents are shooting just 27.4 percent on 3-pointers as well.
“When you’re a good defensive team, with the potential to be a great defensive team, and you rebound the ball, you have a chance to win every single night,” Huskies coach Dan Hurley said.
The defense came up big in Tuesday’s come-from-behind 65-54 win at Marquette. UConn (5-1, 2-1) has won two straight conference games since falling to No. 7 Creighton in overtime on Dec. 20.
The Huskies also led early, but trailed Marquette 31-23 at halftime and 43-25 with just under 16 minutes to play. Then came the Tyler Polley Show.
Polley scored all of his career-high 23 points during UConn’s finishing 40-11 run. He hit 5 of 8 from long range and added a traditional three-point play in his spree.
“Tyler is as good of a guy you can coach and is the most diligent worker. Any time one of the good guys delivers at that level, you’re so happy because it couldn’t happen to a better guy,” Hurley said.
Isaiah Whaley added 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, also drawing descriptions like “awesome” and “tremendous” from Hurley, who added, “I’ve been begging him to shoot more pick and pops and more 3-pointers,” Hurley said.
Whaley hit the only shot he tried from behind the arc.
The offense was welcome, as James Bouknight, the Huskies’ leading scorer, managed only six points on 3-of-12 shooting. Despite the off night, Bouknight is the only UConn player in double figures at 20.3 points per game, though four more are between 8.2 and 9.7 per game.
Tyrese Martin is averaging 8.8 rebounds per game, followed by Whaley’s seven.
–Field Level Media