No. 6 Marquette beats Butler to clinch Big East outright

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – Now that No. 6 Marquette has secured the regular-season Big East championship, more accolades could follow.

It would be hard to pick against Tyler Kolek for Big East player of the year or Shaka Smart for conference coach of the year.

Kolek had 21 points and 10 assists, and Marquette clinched its first outright conference title in 20 years by beating Butler 72-56 on Tuesday night.

Heading into the game, Kolek, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard from Cumberland, R.I., was second in the NCAA in assists (7.8 per game). Over the past nine games, he has averaged 18.2 points. He shot 9 of 13 from the field and 2 for 3 on 3-pointers against the Bulldogs.

“To me, he’s the MVP of the Big East. He makes that team go,” Butler coach Thad Matta said. “He’s such an intelligent basketball player. He’s got a great pulse on that team. It looks like they really feed off him, and he embraces that leadership.”

The victory was the fifth in a row and 10th in 11 games for the surprising Golden Eagles (24-6, 16-3), picked ninth by the league’s coaches in the preseason poll.

This week, Marquette ascended to its highest ranking in the AP Top 25 since it was No. 1 in 1978.

Marquette, which had already earned at least a share of its first Big East title since 2013, had not won an outright regular-season crown since doing so in Conference USA in 2003.

Olivier-Maxence Prosper added 14 points and Oso Ighodaro had 12 for the Golden Eagles, who will be the top seed in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden – an event Marquette has never won.

The Golden Eagles will open in the quarterfinals March 9 against the winner of a first-round game between Butler and St. John’s.

“The calendar is about to turn to March,” Smart said. “We’re very excited about winning the Big East regular season. But we’re not done.”

The 45-year-old Smart, in his second season at Marquette after six each at VCU and Texas, won his first regular-season league championship in 14 years as a Division I head coach.

He said he is not one to “politic” for individual awards, but offered this assessment of Kolek:

“I would say that he has been as impactful for winning as anyone in our league. And there’s a lot of really good players in our league.”

In the second half, the Golden Eagles shot 65% (15 of 23) from the floor and led by as many as 24 points.

Jayden Taylor scored 13 and Jalen Thomas had 10 for Butler (14-16, 6-13), which finished 4-6 in Big East home games.

Butler shot 0 of 10 while going scoreless for nearly nine minutes in falling behind 16-6. After the Bulldogs closed to 18-13, Marquette went on a 14-3 spurt to seize a 32-16 lead.

Butler was never closer than 11 points thereafter.

Marquette shot 72% (13 for 18) on 2-pointers in claiming a 36-22 halftime advantage. Kolek had 11 points at the break.


Marquette: The Golden Eagles made the biggest jump in the history of the Big East preseason poll. In 1989-90, Connecticut was picked eighth and tied Syracuse for first place.

“We never really talked about winning the Big East championship,” Smart said. “It was never a point of emphasis. We did talk about being picked ninth. We thought we were better than that.”

Marquette’s 16 league wins are the most in school history. For the first time, the Golden Eagles defeated every league opponent at least once.

Butler: In the first season of Thad Matta’s second coaching stint at Butler, the Bulldogs would have to win Saturday at No. 19 Xavier and then twice in the Big East Tournament to avoid a third successive losing season.

Butler was 14-19 (7-13 Big East) last season and 10-15 (8-12) in 2020-21. The school has not won an NCAA tournament game since 2013.


Butler center Manny Bates was back in the lineup after missing two games with a shoulder injury. Another Butler regular, wing Ali Ali, was sidelined by concussion protocol for the second time this season.


Marquette: Closes the regular season Saturday at home against St. John’s.

Butler: Plays at No. 19 Xavier on Saturday.

Late goaltending call sends Butler past No. 13 Xavier 69-67

Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – Butler center Manny Bates set the decisive screen, then watched Eric Hunter Jr. drive for the winning shot Friday night.

He figured the call on the floor would stand – and so did Bulldogs coach Thad Matta.

On a night Jayden Taylor scored 20 points and Bates added 19, it was Bates’ pick near midcourt and the ensuing goaltending call on Hunter’s dunk attempt with 2.5 seconds left that finally closed out Butler’s 69-67 win over No. 13 Xavier and sent students streaming onto the Hinkle Fieldhouse floor.

“There was no doubt in my mind it would stand,” Bates said, describing the wait for the replay review. “I just got the screen and wanted to see Eric go finish.”

The hometown fans have spent most of this season waiting to see Butler deliver a knockout punch, and the players seemed to feed off the sellout crowd at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs (13-13, 5-10 Big East) quickly built a double-digit lead, maintained their poise late and never trailed while holding the nation’s sixth-highest scoring team nearly 17 points below its average.

Colby Jones led Xavier with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Nunge added 14 points and eight rebounds. But the Musketeers (19-6, 11-3) are now tied with No. 10 Marquette atop the conference standings.

But it was the final wacky 30 seconds that created a rollercoaster of emotions for everyone.

Butler appeared to seal its second straight two-point win this week when sixth-year senior Jack Nunge grabbed a loose ball with 23.4 seconds left and called a timeout Xavier didn’t have. Taylor sank both free throws on the technical foul call, but the Bulldogs’ empty ensuing possession led to a 3-pointer from Nunge with 15 seconds left that made it 66-65.

Taylor answered by making 1 of 2 free throws then mistakenly fouled Souley Boum near midcourt with 9.1 seconds to go. Boum made both free throws to tie the score at 67.

That set up Bates to free Hunter, who darted to the open basket as two Xavier defenders converged and knocked the ball away from the basket. While the officials huddled, Xavier coach Sean Miller was befuddled.

“What I don’t understand is how, with 9.1 seconds left, we weren’t ready defensively,” Miller said. “All five of our defenders were at half court. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

When the officials finally made the call, Hinkle Fieldhouse roared with approval as it awaited the review.

“Somebody, I think one of our assistants, said they couldn’t overturn the goaltend so I was confident it would hold up,” Butler coach Thad Matta said.

Xavier still had one more shot, though, and when Boum’s long heave bounced off the back of the rim, students mobbed Butler’s players and celebrated their first win over a ranked team in six tries this season.


Xavier: Miller explained afterward that he believed Nunge’s timeout call was just a reaction in the heat of the moment. He was far more critical of his team’s effort, which he said “was not very good.” He knows that must change if the Musketeers intend to win the league title.

Butler: This will go down as one of the Butler’s best games all season. Whether this two-game winning streak leads to bigger things, though, is still to be determined. Butler needs to build off this week’s momentum to finish this season with a flourish.


The loss should send Xavier sliding down the rankings. How far they slip will depend on the remaining results from this weekend.


Xavier came into the game without its top rebounder and second-leading scorer, Zach Freemantle, who has a left foot injury. And in the first half, they lost Boum, their top scorer briefly with what appeared to be an injured left ankle. Boum finished with 12 points and three assists, but limped noticeably the rest of the game. Miller did not update Boum’s status following the game.

UP NEXT Xavier: Visits Marquette on Wednesday in a matchup of the Big East’s top teams.

Butler: Heads to Villanova on Tuesday.

Adama Sanogo shines as No. 3 UConn stays unbeaten

Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Adama Sanogo had 27 points and 14 rebounds, helping No. 3 Connecticut beat Butler 68-46 on Saturday night.

Jordan Hawkins added 12 points as the Huskies (12-0, 1-0 Big East) extended the program’s fourth-longest winning streak to start a season. UConn’s No. 3 ranking is the team’s highest since 2009, and it likely will move up in the next poll after No. 2 Virginia lost to No. 5 Houston on Saturday.

“Obviously Adama played like an All-American, one of the best players in the country, which he is,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said.

The Huskies pulled away late in the first half. The Bulldogs (8-4, 0-1) were unable to match the physicality of Sanogo, a 6-foot-9 junior center from Mali. The Huskies dominated on the boards, 54-30.

“We just have to stick to our identity,” Sanogo said. “Coming into here, we know it’s going to be a tough game. No pressure, just play the way I’ve been playing.”

Manny Bates scored 16 points for Butler on 7-for-11 shooting. Chuck Harris had 12.

The Bulldogs opened with an 8-2 run, but Sanogo quickly started to assert himself inside. By the time Connecticut was ahead 25-17, Sanogo had 12 points.

“Adama is going to have to do this for us at times,” Hurley said. “That’s the responsibility of one of the best players in the country. When we have a number of people struggling offensively, we’re going to need him to take over.”

Connecticut’s Nahiem Alleyne sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 28-20 halftime lead.

When Butler closed to 43-39 midway through the second half, Sanogo stepped out and sank his only 3-pointer. The Huskies then went on a 12-0 run to build a 61-42 lead with 4:33 remaining.

“If I’m open, why not, I’m going to take it,” Sanogo said of the 3.

Butler coach Thad Matta lamented his team’s inability to get closer than the four-point deficit.

“As poorly as we played, and they probably had a lot to do with it, we were in position to have a chance,” Matta said. “Gosh, did we struggle to put the ball in the basket tonight.”

Butler made just 16 of 54 shots (29.6%).

The Huskies are unbeaten in six career meetings against the Bulldogs, starting with a win in the 2011 NCAA championship.


Connecticut: Following a slow start, the Huskies showed off their resolve. Even when it was missing shots, UConn had superior ball movement and was better on the boards to create more scoring chances.

Butler: A second-half comeback came up short, but the Bulldogs proved they can contend with an elite Big East team. Butler had won four in a row before hosting its highest-ranked opponent since No. 1 Villanova in 2017.


Connecticut: Hosts Georgetown on Tuesday.

Butler: At Creighton on Thursday.

Butler’s Jalen Thomas out indefinitely with heart issue

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INDIANAPOLIS — Butler forward-center Jalen Thomas will be out indefinitely after being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism.

Team officials said the fourth-year player is being treated by the team’s medical staff and local specialists. Doctors believe Thomas can make a full recovery with medication.

The Cleveland Clinic website describes the condition as a blood clot in the lung that restricts blood flow and lowers oxygen levels in the lungs while increasing blood pressure in pulmonary arteries.

While Thomas is expected to participate in non-contact work and conditioning during his recovery, the Bulldogs don’t expect Thomas to play any sooner than December.

The 6-foot-10, 230-pound Thomas transferred to Butler in May after playing three seasons at Georgia State, where he finished fifth on the school’s career list for blocks (116). He was ranked among the Sun Belt Conference’s top shot blockers each of those three seasons.

Butler opens its season with new coach Thad Matta when it hosts New Orleans on Nov. 7.

North Carolina State transfer joins revamped Butler roster

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — Butler coach Thad Matta landed his second big man in less than a week Monday, announcing the addition of 6-foot-11 Manny Bates from North Carolina State.

The grad transfer had 147 blocks, fourth in school history, and shot 64.7% from the field in two seasons with the Wolfpack. He played just one game last season after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the first minute of North Carolina State’s season opener.

“Manny’s presence defensively will be incredibly impactful,” Matta said in a statement. “He blocks and alters shots at a high level. Offensively, his size and athleticism give him the ability to score in the post, in the pick-and-roll, and in transition.”

The announcement comes just days after Matta announced that 6-10 forward Jalen Thomas would transfer to Butler from Georgia State. The Bulldogs also recently landed former Akron swingman Ali Ali and are expected to announce soon that a fourth player will transfer into the program.

Last week, Matta also hired former Ohio State stars Greg Oden and Jon Diebler to his staff.

Oden, the IndyStar Mr. Basketball in 2006 and No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007, will serve as director of basketball operations. Diebler will be director of recruiting.

“Both possess great energy and strong basketball knowledge,” Matta said. “They will relate well to our players and will help them grow on and off the court. I was excited years ago when they committed to be part of my program as players, and I’m just as excited they are joining my staff.”

Butler hires Austin Parkinson as women’s basketball coach

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INDIANAPOLIS – Butler hired Austin Parkinson as its new women’s basketball coach Friday, ending a search that lasted a little more than two weeks.

Parkinson won’t even have to leave town. The IUPUI campus is only a few miles away from Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse.

He replaces Kurt Godlevske, who was fired by director Barry Collier on March 22 after two of the worst seasons in Bulldogs history. Butler went 1-27 last season.

“Austin set himself apart from a strong pool of candidates with his experience building a championship-caliber program at IUPUI and his vision for how Butler will achieve similar success within the Big East,” Collier said.

Parkinson, a former Purdue star, left the IUPUI men’s staff in September 2010 to take over the scandal-tinged women’s program. Over the next 12 seasons, the program went 224-141 and became a Horizon League powerhouse.

He posted eight 20-win seasons including a 24-5 mark last season when the Jaguars won their second league tournament title in three years and made the first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.

“Everything is in place at Butler for our program to make noise in the Big East and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the Bulldogs,” Parkinson said.

IUPUI chancellor Andrew Klein said a search for Parkinson’s replacement will begin immediately.

It’s the second hiring Butler has made this week. Collier named Thad Matta as the men’s basketball coach on Sunday.