Butler back home to take on surging Southern Illinois

NCAA

Butler is looking for a win to get its pandemic-interrupted season back on track. Southern Illinois is aiming for a win that might validate its best start since 2014-15.

The teams will meet Monday night in Indianapolis for the Bulldogs’ first home game since Nov. 25. The game was put together on three days’ notice due to recent cancellations that left both teams’ nonconference schedules a bit light.

Butler (1-2) is coming off a 68-60 loss to Indiana on Saturday in the Crossroads Classic, and it might be short-handed for a second straight game. Point guard Aaron Thompson injured his knee and is considered questionable for Monday night.

Without Thompson, the Bulldogs would have to make up for 17.5 points and 5.0 assists per game, not to mention the leadership abilities of the three-year starter.

Still, they played a good half without him against Indiana, leading 37-32 at the break. In the first 13 minutes after halftime, Butler made just 3 of 21 shots.

“Had some wide-open shots for some of our guys that can make those,” Bulldogs coach LaVall Jordan said. “And then I think it affected us when we didn’t, and that’s when we have to be tougher.”

Jair Bolden, who leads the team in scoring at 17.7 points per game, canned 6 of 9 3-pointers and tallied 20 points against Indiana. Bolden has done most of his work on 3s, stroking 12 of 23.

Meanwhile, the Salukis (5-0) are showing signs that they might be able to contend in the Missouri Valley Conference under second-year coach Bryan Mullins. He was part of one of their best teams as a player, helping them reach the Sweet 16 in 2007.

Mullins has constructed a team that defends well and has more scoring punch than it did last year. Friday’s 62-50 win over North Dakota aside, SIU is averaging 81.2 points and shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.

“This was the first game we haven’t shot well, and we won the game with our defense,” Mullins said. “That was really positive to see.”

Marcus Domask and Eastern Illinois transfer Ben Harvey are sharing the scoring lead at 16.0 points per game. The Salukis’ best win is a 70-66 decision Dec. 11 against perennial Ohio Valley Conference power Murray State.

–Field Level Media

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