Not all matchups are created equal. After the No. 5 Connecticut Huskies made mincemeat out of Seton Hall, this matinee against Butler shrinks in comparison. The Bulldogs rank No. 126 in NET and are 7-11 on the year and 2-7 in conference. Their two lone conference wins came against the pair of teams below them, Xavier and Georgetown, both by a large margin. Being the best of the bottom three doesn’t mean too much though, especially against a top five team like UConn.
This year the Bulldogs started off strong, winning four of their first six games, albeit against mediocre competition. Their schedule started bulking up with a mixture of conference/other power six opponents, causing them to lose five of their next six. That set did include an impressive loss against then-No. 4 Indiana in Bloomington, as they didn’t let the Hoosiers blow them out of the gym. From there, Butler hasn’t impressed with a 2-4 stretch that includes their low-Big East wins.
That final stretch saw the Bulldogs play their first game against UConn. When the teams played at Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Huskies emerged as 33-point victors. After jumping out to a double-digit lead in the opening period, Connecticut didn’t make a meaningful difference in their advantage before halftime. A +18 third quarter sealed the deal and the game was won largely by Aaliyah Edwards’ near double-double, with 20 points and nine rebounds.
The one bright spot in that game for Butler was senior guard Rachel McLimore, who scored 18 points on 4-8 shooting from deep. She posts 11 points per game as the leading scorer on a team well into the bottom half of NCAA team points. She’s also the leading passer, dishing out a pair of assists on a nightly basis. It’s going to be an uphill battle for the Bulldogs to even keep things competitive on Saturday and to do that, McLimore will need to see all her shots fall.
The Huskies are coming off one of their most impressive wins of the year, as Seton Hall gave them no resistance. A surprisingly efficient 50-point first half was followed by an even better 53 point second half, helping UConn total their first 100+ point game. Edwards and Dorka Juhasz both notched 20 point double-doubles, while Nika Mühl reached double-figures in assists for the first time in nearly four weeks. What made the game all the more impressive was the fact that they played it with just seven available scholarship players, the minimum required to play. Although they dropped in the rankings, the Pirates were a NET top-50 team entering the game and weren’t missing any major contributors. If the Huskies dismantled Seton Hall with a full roster then it would come as no surprise, but they were missing both Azzi Fudd and Caroline Ducharme, regular starters.
For Saturday’s game, the biggest keys will be keeping the same intensity that they had for the Seton Hall win. Against Georgetown, they demonstrated very little excitement and drive, so seeing that continue for a second straight contest would be a welcome sign. It will also be a good opportunity to help get some of the younger players a bit more acclimated to the college game, although they have already been thrown into the fire. One such player is sophomore Amari DeBerry, who played well in garbage time against the Hall. She scored 13 points and also delivered a spectacular pass while sitting down that broke SportsCenter’s top 10 plays.
The game will tip this Saturday at 12 p.m. EST at Gampel Pavilion and can be viewed on SNY.