20 November 2009

Recap: Butler 67 NU 54

In the hours leading up to the game there was some optimism swirling around certain segments of NU fandom when news spread of NU's 4 to 5 point underdog status. Once the game started the optimists had to take heart in the fact that NU only trailed by 5 points at the end of a first half in which NU shot the ball fairly poorly. Then the second half began and it all unraveled. Butler started knocking down the open shots it had during the first half once they had easily broken NU's 1-3-1 zone with crisp passing into the corners, and it became apparent that NU had no answer for Butler's sound defense on the other end. Game. Set. Match.

Of Carmody Court's five pregame keys, only Shurna's lack of foul trouble and maybe NU's "aggression" (rebound and FTA statistics were roughly even) went the way we had hoped. Butler won the other three keys, including exerting its defensive will as exemplified in half two of last year's game, NU's inability to take advantage of Mirkovic's height advantage (no fault to Carmody for his game plan as he did try to force it down low only to find Mirkovic off his game), and probably most importantly Butler's ability to break NU's 1-3-1 zone as mentioned above.

On a positive note, NU fans got a first good look at Alex Marcotullio and he looked ready to play. Marcotullio had been hampered by an undisclosed hamstring injury during the exhibition and first game against NIU. Kyle Rowley looked adept at times but still prone to the turnover bug. Juice had a solid night as expected but was shut down once Butler realized NU didn't have many other viable scoring threats, at least on this night.

Carmody Court hopes that Marcotullio's game readiness is not just a tease. With him in the lineup NU has three threats from beyond the arc (along with Juice and Shurna). Perhaps he and Crawford should platoon for the time being at the 2G as Crawford looks like he's still on the very steep part of that freshman learning curve. There has been some hope that both freshmen could contribute and possibly even start -- this would be fine with Carmody Court so long as they are ready for it. It seems like this is more of a medium-term plan, but we can always hope for the best.