The Butler Bulldogs looked poised to turn Tuesday’s game against Utah into a blowout when they expanded their lead to 15 with just under six minutes left. However, the resilient Utes battled their way back into a five-point deficit, and might have gotten closer if not for one tiny detail: Kelan Martin was unstoppable.
Martin shot a scorching 7-8 in the second half, and his only miss was a three-pointer as time expired. He finished 12-19 with 29 points and 11 rebounds. Butler received zero scoring from its bench, but the stars carried the team. Apart from Martin, Kamar Baldwin did it all with 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Paul Jorgensen helped the Bulldogs wade through a rough patch in the first half by scoring 10 points – he finished with 16.
The good news for the Utes is that freshman Donnie Tillman had another stellar performance, scoring 20 points and collecting seven rebounds off the bench. Tillman was almost able to rescue the rest of his team which shot a combined 12-45 from the field.
The Bulldogs go as Kelan Martin goes
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the “team goes as x-player goes” cliché. I feel like it is rarely that simple, and a lot of the time if a player plays poorly it’s because of something the opposing team is doing rather than just a sub-par effort by the player.
However, this cliché seems to truly apply to Kelan Martin and the Bulldogs. With Martin’s range, strength, and body control, he can get shots essentially whenever he wants. Every game he manages to get good looks – some nights he makes them. When he is hitting shots, the Bulldogs are just about unbeatable. Butler fans are praying that Martin can stay hot in Big East play this year.
Butler’s defense is almost there
Butler’s team defense over the last couple seasons has been average at best – at worst, it’s been a liability. LaVall Jordan, who played on some Butler teams known for suffocating defense, is attempting to bring the culture back. He seems to be succeeding.
Butler’s defense has steadily improved, and it was good against the Utes. Donnie Tillman is a special talent, and the Bulldogs had trouble containing him, but I imagine a lot of teams will. Apart from Tillman’s individual effort, the Utes couldn’t get anything going.
On a related note, the Bulldogs are fiends on the boards
Butler and Utah have both rebounded well in their last few games, and the battle on the boards looked like it was going to be an important factor in Tuesday’s game. The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Utes 34-28 and it was a team effort. Martin and Baldwin led the way, but Tyler Wideman chipped in six boards and Paul Jorgensen had three.
Utah’s next game is on Saturday against in-state rival Utah State. Butler faces off against Youngstown State.