Digital Headbutt

A sports blog about stuff…stuff that involves things.

#15 Southern Illinois vs. #12 Butler: Mid Major Game of the Year

Posted by Mike on February 17, 2007

Today the Butler Bulldogs host the Southern Illinois Salukis in Indy’s historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Based on their pas success in the NCAA tournament and their success this year, this is likely the biggest game this season between two mid major squads. Butler led by guards A.J. Graves and Mike Green, are looking to bounce back after a Horizon league loss to surprising Wright State. In November they shocked everyone by winning the NIT season tip-off, beating Indiana, Tennessee, and Gonzaga to win, and have thus far dominated the Horizon Leauge. The Salukis, led by guard Jamaal Tatum and forward Randal Falker, are the best team in the tough Missouri Valley Conference, having won 8 straight games.

4:04 pm: Southern Illinois is playing a press defense. This can end up going very well or very badly for the Salukis, depending on how prepared Butler is for it.

4:05 pm: Hinkle Fieldhouse is an intimidating place to play. It has more history than Cameron Indoor, more than twice as big, and the student section is just as rowdy. If they played in a major conference (say Big East) it would likely be considered the toughest place to play in college basketball.

4:08 pm: Mike Green draws first blood, driving into the lane and hitting a tough shot in the paint. 2-0, Butler.

4:10 pm: 2-2. The Bulldogs play a different but equally effective style of defense, a zone in which the only put pressure on players with the ball. Both teams average about 56 points allowed per game.

4:11 pm: 4-3, SIU. Tatum hits a short jumper from the left baseline to take the lead back. So far this game is going at a fairly slow pace. To be quite honest, I wouldn’t want UNC to face either of these teams in a potential Sweet 16 matchup. This kind of defense and games pace is a serious weakness for the Tar Heels. If you haven’t noticed by now, I am EXTREMELY partial to the team in Chapel Hill.

4:15 pm: 9-3, SIU. Tony Young hits the three, and on the next possession Tatum hits a tough basket driving inside. Butler is not hitting their shots right now. They just shot an airball.

4:18 pm: 9-6, SIU. Pete Campbell hits Butler’s first three of the game. SIU has challenged the perimeter all game long, but Campbell has hit 58% from the arc in conference play.

I know Butler is in Indy, but what is a Butler student doing in the front row wearing a Colts Edgerrin James jersey? Insane.

4:21 pm: 12-9, SIU. Clemmons of the Salukis gets 3 the hard way, but then Mike Green gets 3 the easy way for Butler.

4:22 pm: 12-11, SIU. The bulldogs have played good defense, and it pays off with a turnover, and Willie Veasley gets an easy dunk to cut the lead to 1.

4:26 pm: 13-12, Butler. The Salukis’ defensive weakness might be inside penetration. They were too busy defending the perimeter, and Butler patiently waited for them to waver and got an easy dunk inside to take the lead.

4:29 pm: 17-15, SIU. The Salukis get two quick baskets, including a three, before Brian Ligon gets his second basket inside.

4:30 pm: 18-17, Butler. Brandon Crone gets a big 3-pointer off another nice A.J. Graves pass to give Butler the lead again.

4:35 pm: 22-18, SIU. Forward Matt Shaw give the Salukis the lead back with free throws, and then hits an open three on the next possession. I don’t think that there’s any player on either team who can;t shoot the three, which is an asset considering the defense in this game.

4:37 pm: 24-20, SIU. Crone somehow manages to tip in a miss by Green. He has to do it behind two SIU players. Ligon follows with an easy inside shot on the next possession to make it 24-22.

4:39 pm: 27-22, SIU. Tony Young hits another 3-pointer to extend the Saluki lead to five.

4:40 pm: Bizarre ad: Yup, that’s me.

4:45 pm: 27-23, SIU. Unbelievable. Falker tackled a guy and the Butler player got called for the foul. I can even hear the Butler fans chanting “BULL—-! BULL—-!”

4:47 pm: 27-25, SIU. This has been a great game so far. I love the hustle of these two teams. They’re fighting for the ball like Bruce Bruce and Rosie O’Donnell for the last slice of pizza backstage.

4:49 pm: 30-25, SIU. Jamaal Tatum hits another three pointer to end the half. Southern Illinois leads by five at halftime. Both of these teams are playing great defense, and the Salukis are right where they want to be. Butler needs to hit more of their perimeter shots to win in the second half.

4:59 pm: UPSET WATCH: Missouri 75, Okla. St. 64, Final; Alabama 67, Kentucky 61, 2nd half.

5:03 pm: During this game, I happened to wonder, what exactly is a Saluki? According to this article, a Saluki is a Sighthound, originally bred in Ancient Egypt that uses sight rather than smell to hunt. They are one of the more intelligent modern breeds of dogs.

5:08 pm: The Hinkle Fieldhouse has a plastic chainrope separating the fans from the court. Like that’s going to stop them from storming the court after a win.

5:09 pm: 30-27, SIU. Butler gets the first basket of the second half and cuts the lead to 3.

5:11 pm: 34-27, SIU. REJECTED! Falker emphatically blocks a Butler layup, and Shaw dunks on the other end. If you can believe that’s only the second basket in transition for both teams in the entire game, and the first for SIU.

5:13 pm: 37-29, SIU. Shaw hits his second three pointer of the game, and he has 5 points in the second half already. However, Falker is on the bench in foul trouble.

5:19 pm: 37-32, SIU. Campbell hits a three for the Bulldogs sprung by his own inbound pass. A great play, but but for some reason I’m fixated on a box behind Gary Lickliters head that says POP-CORN! I have no idea why.

5:20 pm: 39-32, SIU. Graves isn;t having a great game, but he makes a great defensive play, taking contact from Tatum, jarring the ball loose, saving it from going out of bounds and calling a timeout.

5:23 pm: 39-35, SIU. Graves’ effort is rewarded by another huge three-pointer by Campbell.

5:25 pm: 40-35, SIU. Butler is called for another foul, and again the fans are chanting “BULL—-! BULL—-!”

Now would be a good time to tell you that the refs are from the MVC, Southern Illinois’ league.

5:28 pm: 44-35, SIU. Tyrone Green hits a shot off an offensive rebound to extend the lead to 9, and then Butler turns the ball over. Believe it or not, that’s only their 4th turnover of the game.

Rick Majerus is an excellent commentator; he’s called this game extremely well. It’s too bad that his health is keeping him away from being a coach again. But you know what? I would pick him over Bruce Bruce and Rosie O’Donnell in the fight for the last slice of pizza. He’s craftier than they are.

5:34 pm: Falker and Tatum come back into the game. Can you believe that SIU has extended the lead in their absence?

5:36 pm: The clear-cut sign A.J. Graves is having a bad day: he is a 96% FT shooter and misses. Just as I say that, he hits his first shot of the game, a three. 45-38, SIU.

5:38 pm: 47-39, SIU. The Salukis get a basket inside, but Falker is back on the bench with his 4th foul.

5:43 pm: 48-45, SIU. Campbell hits two straight threes, the first thanks to great passes by Streicher and Graves. The Dawg Pound is absolutely loving it.

5:46 pm: 49-47, SIU. Each team gets a questionable foul call. Mike Green makes his free throws to cut the lead to 2.

5:49 pm: 50-48, SIU. Young gets his fourth foul, forcing Falker back into the game for the Salukis.

5:50 pm: 53-48, SIU. Mullins is double-teamed by the Bulldogs, leaving Matt Shaw open for the three.

5:51 pm: 53-50, SIU. Crone drives the lane and gets a nice shot inside, as the SIU defense doesn’t send help in the paint.

5:53 pm: 54-52, SIU. Butler drives inside again, and this time Mike Green gets the basket. Campbell comes back in the game for the Bulldogs.

5:55 pm: 58-52, SIU. Tatum likes to drive to the left, and he gets a two free throws and a nice fadeaway jumper with four minutes left.

5:58 pm: UPSET WATCH: Michigan 52, Indiana 51, 2nd half.

6:00 pm: 60-54, SIU. Butler ans Southern Illinois exchange free throws.

6:02 pm: Every time I hear the annonuncer says Falker’s name, it grabs my attention. Maybe it’s because his name sounds like something else.

6:03 pm: A.J. Graves fouls out of the game. The Salukis are doing a great job of drwing fouls.

6:05 pm: 63-57, SIU. I don’t think that a single field goal has been made in the last two minutes of playing time, or in the last 10 minutes of real time.

6:07 pm: 63-60, SIU. Butler plays great defense, and then do a great job of passing to get Crone an open look for three. It’s a one pssession game with a minute left.

6:10 pm: 65-60, SIU. Young hits two free throws.

6:11 pm: 65-62, SIU. Veasley is fouled and hits his free throws, but Green fouls Tatum in the inbound pass.

6:14 pm: 67-64, SIU. Tatum hit his free throws, and Butler draws a foul on the other end. Crone makes his free throws, and Southern Illinois is forced to call a timeout off the inbound pass, with 11.8 seconds left.

6:15 pm: 67-64, SIU. I don’t believe it. ESPN’s clock is obstructed by a cheerleader’s pom-poms. How is that even possible. This is supposed to be the World Wide Leader!

6:18 pm: Butler loses control of the ball, Southern Illinois takes the ball and allows the clock to run out. The Salukis win, 68-64. This was an excellent game, perhaps one of the best games this season so far. It certainly exceeded my expectations. Both of teams have proven that they belong as two of the best teams in the nation. Especially considering their style of play, I would be very concerned if UNC drew them in a potential Sweet 16 matchup. The Salukis in particular are an unexpectedly deep and fit team, and they would not get as tired during a game against the Tar Heels as most teams we have faced.

6:25 pm: UPSET WATCH: Michigan 58, Indiana 55, Final.

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