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Connecticut v Butler

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INDIANAPOLIS — Now firmly in the heat of Big East play, the Butler Bulldogs have now lost three straight games though it’s not for a lack of effort.

UConn, the number four ranked team in the nation, was given all they could handle from an ever-improving Butler squad Friday night inside a packed Hinkle Fieldhouse. In the end hot shooting in the second half would be the difference for the Huskies as they upended the Bulldogs 88-81.

“I like this team. We are close,” said head coach Thad Matta. “We did a lot of good things tonight, but when you play a team as good as UConn is and you make mistakes, they make you pay.”

As they have in each game so far in Big East play, the Dawgs came out swinging, sticking with the Huskies shot for shot and stride for stride.

With eight minutes left in the first half, Butler pulled ahead off a 9-0 run capped off by DJ Davis who hit a three-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 31-23 lead.

What helped the Bulldogs was foul trouble late in the half for UConn’s Alex Karaban, who had to sit the remainder of the half with two fouls. This forced UConn to “play small” and Butler took advantage of the space under the basket.

Still, rebounding left something to be desired from the Dawgs all game long as Butler gave up 11 offensive rebounds which created many second-chance points for the Huskies.

“Those timely rebounds were killers,” said Matta. “We did a good job guarding their actions, but we just didn’t complete plays tonight.

Butler would not surrender the lead until midway through the second half. The Huskies would go on an 8-0 run off of several Bulldog turnovers to pull within one of the Dawgs and a three-pointer by Karaban put UConn in front for the first time since it was 23-22 some 15 game minutes earlier in the 1st half.

It was one of two three-pointers made by Karaban in a second half that saw UConn shoot 66-percent from the field, 43-percent from behind the arc.

Despite Karaban fouling out late, the hot shooting persisted with Cam Spencer who hit a final three-pointer with just over a minute to play to put the game on ice.

“They made some of the timeliest plays I’ve seen,” Matta said. “We’re close but we are not there yet. Our guys need to understand nothing stays the same throughout the game. We couldn’t get back over the hump, but we’ve got to keep grinding.”

Davis led the way again for Butler with 22 points and shooting four of eight from three. Pierre Brooks added 19 points of his own. A glaring stat of the game was that Posh Alexander, who averages 10 points per game, was held to just three points the whole night.

The Bulldogs winless streak dating back to that fateful 2011 national championship game continues against UConn. They will have the next five days off as they will have to take on another top-ten opponent in #7 Marquette next Wednesday (1/10) on the road.

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