GAME NOTES: The Butler Bulldogs and Marquette Golden Eagles head off the mainland to meet up in first-round action of the Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center on Monday.
The winner of this game will take on either North Carolina or Mississippi State in second-round action, while the losers will be paired up in the consolation bracket.
Brad Stevens leads his Bulldogs into a new era as the team makes the move from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 this season. Butler has opened its season with a split of its first two games, winning the opener at home over Elon (74-59), before suffering a 62-47 loss at Xavier last time out.
Marquette was to open the season with a marquee matchup against nationally- ranked Ohio State, but the Carrier Classic to be played on the USS Yorktown was canceled due to condensation on the court. The Golden Eagles have made up for lost time since, with a pair of home wins over Colgate (84-63) and SE Louisiana (64-53).
Marquette holds a 14-11 advantage in the all-time series with Butler, but these two teams haven't met since 1991.
The Bulldogs were stifled by the Musketeers last time out, managing to shoot just .365 from the floor overall, including .222 from behind the arc (4- of-18). The team's lack of accuracy even extended to the free-throw line, with Butler converting just 5-of-12 charity tosses. Only Kellen Dunham notched double digits in the loss, netting 11 points off the bench. Center Andrew Smith was the closest to join Dunham with nine points in the setback. After erupting for 21 points in his debut with the team, transfer Rotnei Clarke was a miserable 3-of-11 shooting (1-of-7 from behind the arc), ending the game with just seven points.
While it may have something to do with the competition thus far, Marquette has established its defensive mindset early on. Thus far, the team is allowing just 58.0 ppg on 37.0 percent shooting. Davante Gardner has come off the bench in the first two games, but has made the most of his minutes, leading the team with 16.0 ppg. Jamil Wilson and Chris Otule add 10.5 ppg through two outings. In the win over SE Louisiana, Gardner was an efficient 8-of-14 from the field, finishing with 18 points in just 21 minutes of action. Otule added 10 points in the win, but it was defense again that proved to be the difference, as Marquette held SELA without a field goal over the last six minutes of the game.
It's still a little early to tell just what kind of team Stevens has. Marquette on the other hand seems to be a little deeper and that may be the difference in this early season matchup.