It probably wasn’t how Chris Holtmann and the Bulldogs drew it up, as DePaul got out to an early 20 point lead in the first eight minutes of the game and held the lead for a total of minutes of action, but such is life in conference road games.
“We’re not nearly tough enough right now. Not nearly tough enough. We’ve got to play much smarter as well. So, you know, that perhaps has something to do with it. But again, guys think this stuff’s easy. Coming on the road... coming in a different environment and playing a team that’s hungry for a win. It’s not [easy to do].” Holtmann noted after the game. Kethan Savage shared the sentiments, saying, “Toughest team sets the rules. That’s something that we reiterate over and over. So when go on the road we’ve got to bring that toughness and throw the first punch.”
After trailing for most of the second half, Avery Woodson hit a three with two minutes to play to give Butler a 58-57 lead. Billy Garrett tied it back up with a free throw, before Kethan Savage hit a free throw of his own with six seconds to play to give Butler a 59-58 lead. Savage fouled Eli Cain on the other end, and Cain split his free throws to send the game to overtime tied at 59.
Overtime saw... more free throws. There were a ton of a free throws in this game. 50 to be exact, and only 32 of them went in. Free throws were ultimately the difference maker, though, as Butler freshman Kamar Baldwin sunk a pair with three seconds left in overtime to give the Bulldogs the one-point edge.
“The late play was, we had just put it in and put it in primarily for [Baldwin] to get to the basket. He did a good job getting there and getting fouled.” Holtmann noted.
Kelan Martin, Tyler Lewis, and Andrew Chrabascz struggled for Butler today, combining for 17 points on 29 shots. Holtmann is none too concerned with their struggles though, noting, ”We have good shooters that are just struggling a little bit shooting the ball right now. They’ll come out of it and they’ll make shots. I had an issue with some of our looks, but not a lot, honestly. I felt better about some of our looks in this game than a lot of our other games.”
Savage led the Bulldogs, who are now off to their best start to a season since 2012-13, with 20 points.
Cain notched a career-high 32 in the loss for DePaul, while Tre’Darius McCallum recorded 15 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
After the game, DePaul head coach Dave Leitao expressed his pleasure with Cain’s play, “I think has regained himself and understanding his level of talent and confidence” Leitao said. “It started in the second half of the St. John’s game and it’s continued today. Those things we’ve got to build on for our next game and throughout the rest of the season.”
The Bulldogs head to Newark to face Seton Hall Wednesday evening, while DePaul will be off until next Saturday when they head to Omaha to face Creighton.