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Butler Beats Vanderbilt in Las Vegas: Three Things We Learned

Bulldogs take care of business in Sin City with 10 point victory over the Commodores

NCAA Basketball: Butler vs Vanderbilt Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

What happened in Vegas certainly won’t stay there, as Butler picked up a big nonconference victory Thursday evening.

Vanderbilt was coming off a heart-wrenching loss to Bucknell, letting a stellar, 23-point performance from Matthew Fisher-Davis go to waste.

The star guard would find it much harder to score in bunches against a porous Bulldogs defense. Fisher-Davis scored the first points of the contest, but failed to get on the board after that. He wasn’t the only Commodore to struggle against Butler’s defense, as the starting five shot a combined 29 percent from the field.

Butler was in control for most of the game until Vanderbilt took a late 52-51 lead in the game. In fact, Vandy hadn’t led since the 15:33 mark of the first half. Still, a more focused Bulldogs squad down the stretch was too much for the Commodores to handle.

The Bulldogs are now 5-0 heading into a matchup with the #8 Arizona Wildcats on Friday.

But first, let’s find out what we learned from Butler’s 76-66 win over Vanderbilt.

Tyler Lewis is finally playing like a 4-star recruit

Before the season began, I was convinced that Tyler Lewis would never live up to his 4-star billing coming out of high school. With three seasons under his belt (two with NC State), Lewis had averaged just 4.6 PPG and 2.6 APG.

In five games so far this year, Lewis is scoring seven points per game and has more than doubled his assist averages (5.5 APG). More importantly, Lewis is looking like the confident floor general coaches hoped he could when he transferred into the program in 2015. Even with Kamar Baldwin nipping at his heels, Lewis’s confidence and capability to run Butler’s offense has proven too valuable to bring off the bench.

Kamar Baldwin is a defensive wizard

Speaking of Kamar Baldwin, the breakout freshman should scare every other team in the Big East. Not only is Baldwin a handful on offense (ask Northwestern), but he’s also full of tricks on the defensive side of the ball. His active hands have proven to be a catalyst for Butler’s offense, as seemingly every backcourt steal from the young guard results in an easy basket on the other end.

Despite being one of the younger players on the roster, Baldwin leads the team with 2.3 SPG. The next closest player is Lewis, who averages just one steal per contest. Baldwin is quickly becoming a dark horse candidate for Big East ROY.

Butler is a Top 5 team in the Big East

Despite being a Butler student myself, it would’ve taken some serious arm-twisting at the beginning of the year to make me believe the Bulldogs would finish near the top of the conference.

Well, we are five games in and it’s looking like Butler is ahead of almost everyone’s schedule after the departure of legends Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. New additions (transfers and freshman alike) have contributed nicely and established players have stepped up to fill the void left by Dunham and Jones.

Look out for the Bulldogs, who with a win against #8 Arizona Wildcats, could catapult themselves into the national spotlight once again.