Wright State (11-12) at Butler (12-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday February 2nd, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hinkle Fieldhouse (10,000) -- Indianapolis, Indiana. Television: Local. Home Record: WSU 8-5, Butler 7-4. Away Record: WSU 3-6, Butler 4-7. Neutral Record: WSU 0-1, Butler 1-0. Conference Record: WSU 6-5, Butler 6-5. Series Record: Butler leads, 25-16.
GAME NOTES: The tie for fifth place in the Horizon League standings will be broken tonight when the Wright State Raiders head to the Hinkle Fieldhouse to take on the defending conference champion Butler Bulldogs.
This will be the 42nd meeting in the all-time series. Butler holds a 25-16 edge in the series after inching out a 63-62 victory on January 6th to start the new year. The Bulldogs shot 56.5 percent from the field in the initial meeting, but Wright State was able to knock down 16-of-19 from the charity stripe and force 22 turnovers to keep the game close. Both teams have an identical 6-5 record in league play.
Wright State is 11-12 after its 47-41 victory over Loyola-Chicago on Friday. The Raiders did a superb job of valuing the possession in the contest as they committed only eight turnovers. Wright State swiped 12 steals and forced Loyola into 22 turnovers to pick up the victory in the low-scoring affair. Head coach Billy Donlon's squad has now won two in a row. Wright State is not a threatening offensive squad as it only averages 58.3 ppg. On the defensive end of the floor, the Raiders are allowing opponents to net 60.4 ppg.
Julius Mays is the go-to-guy for Wright State this season as he leads the team in scoring (14.4) and assists (2.6). Mays led the team its last time out as he scored a team-high 16 points. The junior guard was very effective in the initial meeting with Butler this year, as he went 6-of-9 from the field to tally a game-high 24 points. Reggie Arceneaux is second on the team with 8.9 ppg. Johann Mpondo, who has 12 points against Butler in the first meeting, will look to bounce back from his scoreless outing against the Ramblers tonight.
Although Butler's 12-11 record is slightly disappointing after its NCAA Championship Game run, it is important to remember that Brad Stevens's squad was only 14-9 at this point last year. The Bulldogs are currently riding a two-game losing streak after dropping an 80-68 decision to Green Bay on Saturday. Butler did not shoot poorly in the contest, but it only attempted 16 free throws to Green Bay's 30 which ended up being the difference. The Bulldogs are being outscored by an average of 0.7 points per Horizon League contest.
The days of Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack are a thing of the past for Butler as it now relies on a complete team effort to put points on the board. Andrew Smith is the only Bulldog with a scoring average in double figures as he is contributing 10.2 ppg. Smith is also grabbing a team-best 5.7 rpg. Khyle Marshall is second on the squad with 9.1 ppg on 54.7 percent shooting from the floor. Senior guard Ronald Nored is the floor general for Butler. Nored has stepped up his play as of late as he has averaged 12 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.5 steals per game over his last four contests.
Butler's slow starts of the recent past have quickly been erased by late season runs, but there is skepticism that this squad lacks what it takes to repeat the magic. The Bulldogs have a chance to make a statement that they are still viable contenders for the Horizon League crown with a decisive win over a team with a nearly identical resume.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Butler 65, Wright State 59
02/02 10:32:28 ET