Keys to beating Butler

The keys to a win over Butler are not all that different than the keys to defeating Kentucky:

1) Strong starts in both halves.  I wrote this for the Kentucky game, and the Huskies promptly came out and gave up a 10 point lead in the first five minutes of the half; in fact, the lead was down to two points after three minutes.  In nine of the ten games in their winning streak, the Huskies have allowed more they’ve scored in the first five minutes of the second half.  On average, they’ve been outscored in the first 5 minutes of each half, but in the middle 10 minutes of each half and in the last 5 minutes they have outscored their opponents.  They need to come out strong.

2) Unleash the Beast.  I listed this as a key to the Kentucky game.  Oriakhi didn’t have a huge game against Kentucky, but he stayed out of foul trouble, scored 8 and pulled down 10 boards.  Oriakhi has had some monster games this season — including the win over Kentucky in the Maui Classic, in which he scored 18 points and grabbed 11 boards in 36 minutes.  That was on the heels of the win over Michigan State, in which he scored 15 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.  Significantly, he committed only three fouls, one in each game, in the Maui Classic.  Oriakhi had another monster game on the road against Texas, scoring 11 points and pulling down 21 rebounds, and staying out of foul trouble.  If Oriakhi can stay on the court for 33+ minutes, without foul trouble, and contribute 12+ points and rebounds, the Huskies have a very good chance to win this game.

3) Don’t force 3′s.  In the Kentucky game, the Huskies shot 1-12 from beyond the arc; 22-37 inside.  They can’t abandon the 3, but sometimes when it’s not falling, they need to look inside.  Too many times this season, the Huskies have seemed to sit back and settle for 3′s.  Truthfully, they are not a great 3-point shooting team, at 33.7%.   They’re actually not great inside either, shooting only 47% on 2′s, but as a 76% free throw shooting team, they’re much better off forcing the action inside and either scoring or drawing fouls.

4) Play physical, but stay out of foul trouble.  Easier said than done.  Despite coming from a mid-major conference, Butler is a very physical team, which helped them in the win over a very physical Pitt team.  But nothing will derail the Huskies more quickly than getting into foul trouble, especially if it’s the UConn big men, and especially if they foul Matt Howard, a 78% FT shooter.  Howard is a heady player, and my guess is that he’s going to work on the UConn big men early.  And let’s face it: Charles Okwandu and Tyler Olander are quite foul prone, especially if they get the jitters.

5) Limit Butler’s 3′s — particulary Shelvin Mack.  Mack isn’t a great percentage distance shooter at around 35%, but he lit up Pitt with 7-12 and VCU with 5-6 from beyond arc.  Matt Howard is actually a much better 3-point shooter at 42%, and Shawn VanZant is around 42%.


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