"If you expect nothing from anybody, you're never disappointed."
Game #9-259: New Orleans Privateers at Butler BulldogsJanuary 5, 2013 2:00 pm
Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar
In the second of its two post-New Year, pre-Atlantic 10 contests, Butler hosted the Privateers of New Orleans. New Orleans was fresh off a 51-point loss at Mississippi State less than 48 hours before this game, so none of 7,000+ in attendance expected the visitors to put up much of a fight. Some had even worked through the always unreliable Additive Property of Victory Margin (Butler beat North Carolina by 11, North Carolina beat Mississippi State by 46, Mississippi State beat New Orleans by 51) to conclude that Butler should defeat the Privateers by about 108 points; even if you were to factor in an 80 point margin of error to the Additive Property of Victory Margin, this shouldn't have been a competitive game. Alas, I had an expectation, and I was disappointed.
New Orleans is coached by Mark Slessinger (aka "Coach Sless", seen pictured above in a pre-game discussion with Coach Stevens), who is well known from this site as a lifter from low points and a provider of king cake. Slessinger, in his second season at UNO, is an Indiana native who worked with Butler assistant Matthew Graves years ago at basketball camps, a relationship which facilitated this pairing to fill a hole in Butler's schedule before conference play begins. If you aren't impressed with Slessinger from reading about him on this site, take a look at how his team interacted with local Special Olympians in a team event earlier this season, which is one of many community service projects in which the team participates. In short, New Orleans seems to have a good group of kids led by a class act. Add me to the list of people who wishes good things for Coach Sless.
There were other enjoyable aspects to this game:
A behind the scenes view of the Butler Basketball Band, as they performed another stirring rendition of "Welcome to the Black Parade".
A harmonious, spine-tingling version of the national anthem provided by Fifth Quarter, a quintet featuring Wally Cox (in the white shirt), a Butler basketball star from the 1950s.
A dazzling juggling exhibition from @JugglinJosh, who exhibited more concentration in a three-minute halftime exhibition than the home team displayed during the entire first half. Josh also knows how to dress to get the hometown fans on his side.
The rest of the afternoon was a struggle. The game was difficult to watch in many respects. Butler played most of the first half with little ball movement on the offensive end. When the ball got the right side of the court, it too rarely got reversed back to the left; when the ball got passed inside, it too rarely got kicked back out to the perimeter. To their credit, the Privateers applied good pressure on the ball defensively, and made it difficult for Butler to run its offense. The Dawgs went on a 9-3 run over the last four minutes of the half, and took a 24-18 lead into the locker room.
The first three minutes of the second half saw Butler go on an 8-2 run, capped by the only field goal of the game from Rotnei Clarke. From that point on, this was just a weird game to witness. Until the last minute of the game, Butler's lead varied from 8 to 14 points throughout the second half. New Orleans, who Slessinger described as a team that likes to play a fast paced style, went against form and held the ball for 20-25 seconds on almost every second half possession before initiating any offense. This kept Butler from being able to generate any momentum and, aside from a handful of boos, kept the crowd out of the game. Unfortunately, it didn't generate much efficiency from the Privateer offense either. Brad Stevens commented after the game that the New Orleans offensive style resulted in this game having 30 fewer possessions than an average game. With a double digit lead, Stevens saw no real need to extend the defense and risk giving up higher percentage shots, so the game crept along to a merciful end.
Going into this game, my primary goal was to see the team come away healthy and ready for a challenging A-10 conference schedule. The team did come out of this game with its collective good health intact, which sadly cannot be taken for granted in Our Game, but I don't know that the New Orleans game did anything to prepare the team for what lies ahead. I'll credit Coach Sless for trying something new and frustrating his opponent and its fan base, but in retrospect it seems that his approach hurt his team's offense just as much as it did Butler's. I suppose when some conclude that you're a 108 point underdog, it's worth rolling the dice a bit and seeing what might happen.
Good luck, Coach Sless. I'll be rooting for you.
On to conference play!
at BUTLER 57, NEW ORLEANS 44
NEW ORLEANS 3-10 (0-0) -- R. McGruder 11-19 1-2 28; C. Blake 1-6 0-0 3; R. Nelson 2-9 1-5 5; L. Cook 5-10 0-0 11; C. Dixon 2-4 5-6 9; E. Denard 1-2 0-0 2; T. McPhearson 4-4 0-0 10; I. Mack 1-6 0-0 2; M. County 1-1 0-0 2; M. Banchy 0-1 0-0 0; K. Hill 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-43 6-11 44.
BUTLER 12-2 (0-0) -- R. Clarke 1-7 1-2 4; K. Dunham 3-8 6-7 15; A. Smith 4-6 1-1 9; K. Marshall 5-8 3-5 13; A. Barlow 1-3 0-0 3; R. Jones 3-7 5-6 11; K. Woods 0-2 2-2 2; C. Stigall 0-0 0-0 0; E. Fromm 0-0 0-0 0; J. Aldridge 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-42 18-23 57.
Three-point goals: UNO 4-10 (L. Cook 1-1; R. Nelson 0-1; C. Blake 1-2; T. McPhearson 2-2; I. Mack 0-4), BUTL 5-16 (R. Clarke 1-6; A. Smith 0-1; A. Barlow 1-2; K. Dunham 3-7); Rebounds: UNO 20 (C. Blake 5), BUTL 31 (K. Marshall 8); Assists: UNO 9 (R. Nelson 4), BUTL 14 (R. Jones 4); Total Fouls -- UNO 19, BUTL 14; Fouled Out: UNO-E. Denard; BUTL-None.