After losing five straight games to Butler since 1998, Purdue finally managed to take one from the Bulldogs on Saturday. The two teams matched up in Indiana’s Crossroads Classic which features four elite Indiana programs in a two-game event. While the crowd seemed to lean slightly towards the hometown Bulldogs, Purdue jumped out to an early advantage that they never relinquished.
The Boilermakers outscored Butler 35-19 in the first half, and continued to pour it on for the first part of the second. While Butler made it interesting by closing the gap to nine points with about three minutes left, Purdue never lost control of the game, and finished with an 82-67 victory.
Purdue received contributions from several players – every player in the starting five finished in double figures for points. Senior Vincent Edwards was especially sharp, hitting 4-5 three pointers.
Purdue also managed to stifle the Bulldogs defensively. Butler’s second-leading scorer, Kamar Baldwin, was held to 5-19 shooting, and Butler had 17 turnovers. Purdue head coach Matt Painter said at half-time that part of his team’s game-plan was to bottle up Baldwin and stick with the shooters on the perimeter. While Butler had a better offensive effort in the second half, Purdue made enough shots to keep a wide margin.
Kamar Baldwin is slumping
Baldwin has mostly avoided criticism this year because observers tend to center on Kelan Martin and his well-documented inconsistency. However, Baldwin’s abysmal performance against Purdue drew him to the forefront and may help some people realize that he has struggled this season. After a standout freshman performance last year, Baldwin’s shooting percentage has dropped about 6.5%, and his decision-making at the point guard position has been suspect. After five turnovers and no assists against Purdue, Baldwin may have LaVall Jordan wondering if he should adjust Baldwin’s role.
Butler needs to find its shooters
When Butler snuck back into the game with a few minutes left against Purdue, it was because the Bulldogs were making three-pointers. They have the weapons to do it – Martin and Paul Jorgensen can get hot in a hurry, and Baldwin and Sean McDermott are also capable of making threes. Unfortunately for Butler, good three-point looks were rare in the first 30 minutes of the game. Butler needs to find a way to open up its shooters, just like Purdue did with its perimeter threats.
Butler needs to ramp up the defensive intensity early in the game
Another factor in Butler chipping away at Purdue’s lead was the full-court press employed by LaVall Jordan. Butler’s press against Purdue was similar to its press against Ohio State – it produced turnovers and bad shots, and created transition opportunities for Butler. Butler has great athleticism and length with guys like Baldwin, Aaron Thompson, and Martin, and needs to take advantage of it earlier in the game. I’m not suggesting that Butler press the entire game, but it might be worth pressing for five or six minutes in the first half or at least pursuing steals more aggressively in the half-court.