After a dominating victory on Tuesday against Morehead State, Butler coach LaVall Jordan still wasn’t satisfied. “We still haven’t put 40 minutes together, right?” he asked his players in the locker room after the game. “We got about 32 minutes today – but we’re reaching for 40.”
On Thursday night against Western Illinois, the Bulldogs gave LaVall Jordan all 40 minutes. And the result was a 107-46 victory in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler leaped out to a 13-2 lead in the first three minutes and Western Illinois quickly called a timeout, but nothing could slow down the Dawgs.
Butler made 18-of-31 3-pointers, with contributions from just about everybody. The usual suspects – Kelan Martin, Paul Jorgensen, and Sean McDermott – combined for 10 threes, but Jerald Gillens-Butler added two surprising treys and Henry Baddley got red-hot in the second half, finishing 4-4 from behind the arc.
The Bulldogs also turned the ball over just eight times and out-rebounded the Leathernecks 40-28 in what was undeniably Butler’s best game of the non-conference season.
The weapons are there
I get it. Butler played Western Illinois, not Michigan State. That being said, a jump shot is a jump shot, and the ‘Dawgs proved on Thursday that it has several players who can make them. When Martin, Jorgensen, and McDermott are all shooting well, the Bulldogs offense suddenly becomes elite. All season, Butler’s struggle has been consistency, not talent. If the Bulldogs can carry their hot shooting into Big East play, they will be a force to reckon with.
One of the things that has kept Butler from playing consistently is a lack of energy. Jordan Cornette, who has called several Butler games this year, praises Kelan Martin for the quiet way in which he leads the team. Unfortunately, Butler’s three most important players (Martin, Kamar Baldwin, and Tyler Wideman) are mild-mannered by nature, and sometimes the Bulldogs are very flat emotionally. On Thursday, guys like Paul Jorgensen, Nate Fowler, and Joey Brunk provided huge energy boosts to the Dawgs with hustle and emotion. Look for LaVall Jordan to use Fowler and Brunk (and Baddley, as well) in moments where the Bulldogs need a shot in the arm.
The wait is over
The long nonconference season grind is over, and now Big East play begins. Butler comes into conference play with a chip on its shoulder, having been picked to finish eighth in the conference. Butler has made a living out of exceeding expectations in the last 20 years – can the Bulldogs do it again?
The Bulldogs’ next opponent is Georgetown, on December 27. Western Illinois squares off against Lincoln Christian on December 31.