Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Butler Looks Impressive in Win over Siena

Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro might not have known how many times teams he has been involved with have been Butler prior to Tuesday night's meeting with the Bulldogs but that contest, at Albany's Times Union Center, certainly wasn't one of them.

It would have been hard to have brought in a more-attractive opponent than a team that played for last season's national championship and came within a last-second 3-point attempt of upsetting Duke in that contest.

Prior to the contest Buonaguro emphasized that he had played Butler plenty ... 14 times as an assistant coach at Cleveland State (both teams are in the Horizon League) and once last season as a Siena assistant ... and had never beaten it.

But, that wasn't quite true. Times Union beat writer Mark Singelais did a little research and discovered that Cleveland State beat Butler in three straight seasons, 1997-98 through 1999-00, while Buonaguro was on its staff.

"I’m losing my mind,” Buonaguro, 56, told Singelais. “See, I’m old … We beat them three times, so that’s better than I thought.”

Buonaguro certainly had other things on his mind besides his history with the Bulldogs leading up to the game ... like trying to figure a way to beat them.

His team did run out to a 13-5 advantage early in the contest, and was still within 44-41 early in the second half before Butler went on an 15-5 run to take a 59-46 lead. To that point, with less than 10 minutes remaining in the contest Butler had only committed six total turnovers.

When it was over Butler had a precision-like 70-57 victory and committed a grand total of 11 turnovers, exactly its season average through its 3-1 start.

Old friend Howard Herman, a sportswriter with the Berkshire (Mass.) Eagle newspaper who attended the game, made a telling observation.

"When I go back to the office, I'm going to tell the people I work with that I just saw the best team in the country," said Herman. "They're going to think I'm crazy for saying that."

Howard's point, though, was that Butler might not be the most-talented assemblage nationally and might not be as capable of making the NCAA tournament run it did a year ago, but it epitomizes the concept of real team play as well as any team you're likely to see anywhere this season.

Ball movement, unselfish passing, working the ball around deep into the shot clock to ensure a good shot, outstanding attention to team defense ... it was all on full display against Siena.

It was certainly a joy to watch.

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