HOUSTON -- Some quick observations at the half as Butler leads 34-28 over Virginia Commonwealth.
Butler shut down Joey Rodriguez, constantly flustering him as he was 0-of-4 from the field and had two assists and one turnover.
Butler’s Matt Howard was somewhat muted in the first part of the half, but then he did what he does best: He made winning plays before the break and finished by consistently getting to the free throw line, making 7 of 8.
VCU had a hot streak by making three 3-pointers after missing the first three. But the Rams then sputtered again and made only one of their next four from long range.
Butler did what it had to do when the shots weren’t falling from anyone but Shelvin Mack, going consistently inside to find scoring. The Bulldogs also owned the boards, especially on the offensive end (9-3)
Mack was clearly the game-breaker here in the first half. Mack scored 13 points, missing only one shot.
Mack hasn’t made a decision on whether to declare for the draft, but he’s a pro. He carries himself well and is so confident in his game.
Mack was the only one who made 3s (3-4) as the rest of the Bulldogs were 0-for-9 from long range.
There is little atmosphere in the building, which is saying something considering there are 70,000-something in attendance. VCU and Butler weren’t able to generate the necessary juice in this spacious building.
Kentucky fans look like the dominant presence in the stands. No surprise there.
VCU can still go on a hot streak, but the pace seems to favor Butler at this juncture.
Jamie Skeen has had a solid first half, save the foul trouble (two). Skeen scored 12 points and is 5-of-8 from the field.
Each team took a turn with a decent lead as VCU held an eight-point lead, with Butler going on a late run to make it six at the half.
Butler’s Brad Stevens remains cool and calm on the sideline. Shaka Smart is doing his thing -- reacting to every play.
This is the first time in the NCAA tournament that VCU has trailed at the half. How will the Rams respond? We’ll find out soon enough. In the previous five games when they’ve trailed at halftime, the Rams have lost.