Game Preview: #11 Butler at Wright State
Wright State Raiders
Record: 14-9 (7-2 home)
Conference: Horizon (8-4)
RPI: No. 100 (vs. Butler #9)
Sagarin’s: No. 90 (vs. Butler #21)
Last Five: 4-1
1st Meeting: Butler 64, Wright State 48.
When: February 7, 7:00ET
Where: The Nutter Center – Dayton, OH
PPG: 58.5 (9th HL)
Scoring Defense: 55.1 (2nd in NCAA)
Scoring Margin: 3.4 (4th HL)
Free Throw Percentage: 70.8% (5th HL)
3 Point Percentage: 29.0% (9th HL)
Rebounding margin: -3.2 (10th HL)
Turnover ratio: +2.91 (2nd HL)
Notes: Both teams are 7-1 since meeting January 8th at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Neither team looked very impressive on Thursday as Butler outlasted last place Detroit 66-61 and Wright State came back from a halftime deficit to beat 9th place Valparaiso 68-59. Butler will try to snap a seven-game losing streak at the Nutter Center dating back to the 2002-2003 season. As for Wright State, they have fought through an injury riddled season to maintain an outside chance for the second seed and a first round bye in the conference tournament.
Wright State PG Gardner, John David 6’4 190lbs JR
PPG: 8.7, RPG: 2.4, APG: 3.1
Butler PG Nored, Ronald 6’0 170lbs FR
PPG: 3.3, RPG: 3.0, APG: 2.5
Gardner sat out the last 2.5 games due to a hip injury. He played 4 minutes against Valpo and is listed day-to-day for Saturday’s game. If he can’t go, N’Gai Evans and Troy Tabler will assume most of his minutes. Both have stepped up mightily in his absence. Butler’s situation may be worse, however, as the point guards struggled just to get the ball across halfcourt and set up the offense against Detroit.
Advantage: Wright State
Wright State SG Graham, Will 6’2 185lbs SR
PPG: 5.5, RPG: 2.8, APG: 2.0
Butler SG Mack, Shelvin 6’3 185lbs FR
PPG: 12.7, RPG: 4.0, APG: 3.8
Graham put up his second-highest point total against Valparaiso on Thursday, scoring 11 points. He could have easily gone for more, as he shot an embarrassing 2-8 from the free throw line. While he is not much of a scoring threat, his defense is exceptional. Last time the team’s faced he helped to hold Mack to only 5 points. Mack quietly put up 14 points against Detroit, but has seemed to be struggling to fit into the offense lately.
Wright State G Brown, Todd 6’5 205lbs JR
PPG: 10.0, RPG: 5.2, APG: 1.3
Butler F Hayward, Gordon 6’8 180lbs FR
PPG: 13.8, RPG: 6.3, APG: 1.9
Brown is fifth in scoring in conference games at 13.5, and has scored 20+ in three of his last four games. He is shooting 54% from 3-point range in HL play and is coming off a 20-point, 10-rebound game against Valparaiso. Very few Horizon League players can claim to be hotter than Brown lately, but Gordon Hayward is one of those few. He was nearly perfect against Detroit, scoring 22 points on 7-8 shooting from the field and 4-5 from the free throw line.
Wright State F Cooperwood, Cory 6’7 215lbs JR
PPG: 9.2, RPG: 5.3, APG: 0.6
Butler F Veasley, Willie 6’3 190lbs JR
PPG: 8.7, RPG: 4.0, APG: 1.3
Cooperwood had one of his worst games against Butler last time around, playing only 10 minutes due to foul trouble. His performance has dropped off since conference play heated up (6.5ppg since January 3). Veasley went 1-4 from the free throw line on Thursday and seems to be losing some confidence in his shot. Don’t expect Butler to play exceptionally well if he continues to struggle.
Wright State C Thomas, Ronnie 6’9 240lbs JR
PPG: 3.3, RPG: 3.1, APG: 0.4
Butler C Howard, Matt 6’8 220lbs SO
PPG: 13.1, RPG: 7.0, APG: 1.1
Thomas has seen his playing time decrease, as Coach Brownell has been going to his bench more often to get more consistent production. Howard dominated in the first matchup, scoring 14 points and converting 8 of his 9 free throws. Butler’s recent scoring problems may be related to Howard’s struggles, he has only scored in double figures twice in the last six games. Is this his fault or are teams just denying him the ball? I think it is a little of both.
G Tabler, Troy 6’3 185lbs SO PPG: 6.6, RPG: 2.2, APG: 0.8
G Evans, N’Gai 6’2 165lbs SO PPG: 6.3, RPG: 2.2, APG: 1.3
F Land, Cooper 6’8 225lbs SO PPG: 3.8, RPG: 1.9, APG: 0.3
F Horne, Gavin 6’8 220lbs SR PPG: 2.6, RPG: 2.0, APG: 0.3
G Hahn, Zach 6’0 170lbs SO PPG: 5.1, RPG: 1.4, APG: 0.9
F Jukes, Avery 6’8 215lbs JR PPG: 3.6, RPG: 2.4, APG: 0.3
F Butcher, Garrett 6’7 200lbs FR PPG: 2.1, RPG: 1.4, APG: 0.2
Because of injuries, Evans and Tabler have played major minutes lately. Land and Horne have also seen significant minutes due to starter Ronnie Thomas’ inconsistency. All except Horne are capable of getting hot and leading the Raiders in scoring. Butler’s bench took a blow when Vanzant went down with an ankle injury against Detroit. Rumor has it he will be out 2-4 weeks. His energy and defense will be sorely missed. In his absence, expect to see more of freshman forward Garrett Butcher.
Advantage: Wright State
Final Analysis: The last time these teams played Butler established Matt Howard down low early and were never seriously challenged by Wright State. Saturday’s game, however, should bear more resemblance to last year’s game at the Nutter Center in which the Raiders squeaked out a 43-42 victory. The team that protects the ball best and hits its open shots will come out the victor. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, averaging 17.5 turnovers per game over this road trip does not bode well for their chances. I really hope that they prove me wrong.
Prediction: Wright State 52, Butler 51.