Keith Butler watched much of Tuesday’s game against Arizona State from the bench. The junior center, who committed three fouls in the 65-62 loss, watched his teammates get severely out-rebounded by a Sun Devils team with a smaller collective lineup than the Owls’ (1-3).
Butler finished the game with three points and seven rebounds.
“Coach talked about rebounds, but when you’ve got one of the biggest players off the court, you’re not going to get any rebounds,” a disgruntled Butler said.
“You get five fouls a game,” he added. “There’s no point sitting me down for next game. I might as well use five while I can.”
Next game is tomorrow against Villanova at the Palestra at the Big 5 Classic. The Wildcats handed the Owls a 73-48 beating at the Liacouras Center last year, and coach John Chaney said Butler might not see as many minutes.
“Don’t say, ‘Put me back in Coach, I’ll do it right now,'” Chaney shouted. “Do it right the first time. And he didn’t. That’s disappointing to me. I lose confidence in you, and I get very skeptical.”
Chaney said the Owls’ unusually large lineup, which was outrebounded 53-38 by ASU, could be downsized against Villanova. The Owls have essentially started two centers in 7-foot-1 Butler and 6-foot-10 sophomore Wayne Marshall.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, are spearheaded by speedy guard Allan Ray and mobile forward Chris Sumpter.
There won’t be an inside threat like Arizona State’s Ike Diogu, who had 15 points and 16 rebounds on Tuesday. But sophomore guard Dustin Salisbery said games like tomorrow’s are key because the road isn’t going to get any smoother.
“Our schedule that’s coming up is a lot more tough,” said Salisbery, who came off the bench to match freshman guard Mark Tyndale’s team-high 15 points. “There’s a couple ACC schools, and they’re all ranked. Alabama’s ranked [22nd] in the nation. But we’ve just got to come back to practice and work harder, and work on rebounding.”
After committing three turnovers in the first three games combined, junior point guard Mardy Collins coughed it up five times against ASU.
“That is not characteristic of my point guard,” Chaney said. “I was really disappointed in him. He had five turnovers. Some games, he’s played without any.”
As a team, the Owls committed 15 turnovers, including nine in the second half. The Sun Devils committed 12.
SECOND IN COMMAND
The Owls are searching for someone to take the lead when Collins takes a rare rest. With Collins on the floor, the Owls were tied, 23-23, with 5:29 remaining in the first half. When he took a seat, the Sun Devils embarked on a 9-2 run over the next three minutes. At South Carolina, the Gamecocks burst to an early 8-3 lead with Collins on the bench to start the game.
Collins was third in the nation in minutes per game last year, averaging 39.2 per contest. This year, he’s back on that pace, averaging 36.3 minutes per game.
Despite his exasperation, Chaney wants the lineup to stay big. He just can’t afford to keep it that way with Butler’s continual inconsistency. Against South Carolina last Saturday, he contributed zero points, one rebound and three fouls in nine minutes of playing time.
“It just sets a bad tone, and he’s been here three years,” Chaney said of Butler’s play. “It just shouldn’t happen.”
Marshall’s minimal contribution has been overlooked because he is in his first year, but the team’s leader in minutes among frontcourt players is averaging only 6.3 rebounds per game. He had five boards against Arizona State, after pulling down four at South Carolina.
In the first half against ASU, the Sun Devils hauled in as many offensive rebounds (15) as the Owls did total rebounds.
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.