Butler-Seton Hall Preview
Seton Hall’s Sterling Gibbs and Butler’s Kellen Dunham are the Big East’s best 3-point shooters.
Finding the range when they meet figures to be difficult since their teams defend the 3-point arc better than anyone in the conference.
These scoring guards will be the focal point Tuesday night when the No. 21 Pirates seek to improve to 9-0 at home at the expense of the Bulldogs.
Gibbs is shooting 47.6 percent on 3-pointers to lead the Big East, with Dunham right behind him at 46.6. Dunham is third in the conference in scoring with 16.6 points per game and Gibbs is fourth at 16.4.
The issue Tuesday for these stellar perimeter players is that these teams excel at defending the arc. Seton Hall (13-3, 3-1) is limiting foes to 26.4 percent on 3-pointers to rank fifth nationally while the next best Big East team is Butler, ranked 21st overall at 28.0.
Gibbs was heroic Saturday with a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in a 68-67 victory at Creighton. He made 4 of 8 3-pointers and scored 22 points.
“Honestly,” Gibbs said, “I really wanted to just end that game because if we had gone to overtime, I think it would have been tough for us.”
Gibbs is averaging 22.3 points in the Pirates’ Big East victories. He was held to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in Wednesday’s 69-58 defeat at Xavier.
“We have the utmost confidence in Sterling,” coach Kevin Willard said. “He’s carrying us right now.”
The Pirates have been outrebounded in three straight games and that is a concern since the Bulldogs lead the Big East in rebound margin at plus-5.8.
Butler (12-5, 2-2) passed a major test on the boards versus the team right behind it in the conference in that category with a 37-26 rebounding edge in Saturday’s 88-76 victory over Xavier. All five starters scored in double figures, with forwards Andrew Chrabascz and Kameron Woods combining for 32 points.
“Our guys played with a spirit that made me proud,” coach Chris Holtmann told Butler’s official website. “There are games you really feel good about for the right reasons. I feel good about this game, because our seniors get to go out with a home win in this particular series.”
A team effort was needed since Dunham made 2 of 8 shots for 10 points. Roosevelt Jones scored 16 and Alex Barlow added 15 to help pick up the slack.
“The balance we had tonight was the difference,” Holtmann said.
Dunham is the conference’s top foul shooter at 87.7 percent and Gibbs is 12th at 73.6. They are exceptions since these are the Big East’s worst teams in that department, with Butler at 66.9 percent and Seton Hall at 64.2.
The Bulldogs swept two 2013-14 regular-season meetings before losing 51-50 to the Pirates in the opening round of the Big East tournament.
Butler is 2-1 against ranked teams this season after losing seven straight to AP Top 25 teams.