Seton Hall (15-15) at Butler (13-16)
03/08/2014 7:42 AM
03/08/2014 8:33 AM
GAME NOTES: The Butler Bulldogs will attempt to secure the ninth seed in the Big East Conference Tournament, as they entertain the Seton Hall Pirates at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs downed Seton Hall, 64-57, in the inaugural meeting between these two schools on Jan. 29 at the Prudential Center. If Butler manages to complete the season series sweep, it will face the eighth-seeded Pirates in the opening round of the Big East Tournament.
Seton Hall snapped a three-game losing streak in its final home game of the season on Monday with an impressive 71-62 victory over Xavier. The Pirates' triumph was their 15th of the campaign, which equals the amount of wins they had at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season. Although coach Kevin Willard's team is recording 6.8 steals per conference game to lead all Big East schools, it has a negative turnover margin (-.29) in 17 league bouts.
Coach Brandon Miller and his Bulldogs are eager to get back to work after completing a 79-46 rout of DePaul on Thursday. The 33-point margin of victory was the largest over a Division I opponent for Butler this season. If the Bulldogs lose to the Pirates and St. John's defeats Marquette, Butler will fall to the 10th seed in the conference tourney. The Bulldogs have won their last 18 regular-season home finales.
The Pirates' careless play continued to be a factor on Monday, as Xavier scored 17 points off of their 16 turnovers. Seton Hall made up for its miscues by outscoring the Musketeers, 24-9, from beyond the arc and finishing with a 35-31 edge in total rebounds. Senior swingman Fuquan Edwin returned from a hand injury that forced him to miss one game to go 7-of-11 from the floor for 17 points and log three steals, while forward Eugene Teague tallied 17 points and eight rebounds. Senior forward Brian Oliver stole the show, knocking down 5-of-10 attempts from 3-point range en route to a team-high 20 points. Edwin is leading Seton Hall on the season with 15.2 ppg, and his career total of 291 steals is the second-most among active Division I players. Sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs (13.8 ppg) has dished out a team-best 119 assists against 62 turnovers.
Butler opened its contest versus DePaul on an 18-4 run and never let the Blue Demons get within striking distance the rest of the way. In an unusual role as leading scorer, junior guard Alex Barlow tallied 19 points and five steals to spearhead the charge. Barlow hit on 7-of-9 shots from the floor for the Bulldogs, while senior forward Khyle Marshall added 18 points. Sophomore guard Kellen Dunham, who leads the team and ranks 10th in conference play with 15.2 ppg, made up for his 2-of-12 effort from the floor with a game-high nine boards. In conference games, the Bulldogs rank last in the Big East in rebounding margin with 3.5 less per game than their opposition despite the presence of junior forward Kameron Woods, who paces the league with 8.3 rpg.
The Bulldogs consistently struggled at the offensive end this season without a consistent third-scorer to complement Dunham and Woods. If Barlow continues his scoring streak, Butler can be dangerous in the postseason. Seton Hall is more experienced and athletic than Butler, but must value its possessions.
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