On Saturday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler dominated Miami (OH), jumping out to an early lead and never looking back. Seven minutes into the first half, Sean McDermott hit a three to give Butler a 16-8 lead. The RedHawks never came closer than a seven-point deficit after that and the Bulldogs cruised to a 90-68 victory, looking impressively sharp in their season opener.
In the early-going, two Bulldogs fueled the team’s success – Kamar Baldwin (a likely suspect) and Joey Brunk (a pleasant surprise).
Baldwin sat just three minutes in the first half and stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, four assists, and three rebounds. Brunk subbed in at the 18:16 mark after starter Nate Fowler picked up an early foul. He had an immediate impact, scoring six points in less than three minutes. He finished the half with 15 points on 6-for-6 of shooting.
The Bulldogs also played tough defense, holding RedHawks star Nike Sibande to just 3-10 shooting in the first half. Butler led 45-33 at halftime.
In the second half, Paul Jorgensen came alive, dropping in 15 points and pulling down five rebounds. Aaron Thompson was also a key factor in the second, scoring nine points on 4-4 shooting.
The game was never in doubt for Butler as the Dawgs shot 60.3 percent from the field compared to Miami’s 39.7 percent. Butler also out-rebounded Miami 38-22. The Bulldogs looked as polished as they might have hoped to be in their first game of the season, and Butler extended its winning streak in season openers to seven.
Joey Brunk could be the post player Butler needs
Butler is facing the difficult task of replacing Tyler Wideman at center this year, and there were a lot of doubts coming into the season about Nate Fowler. Well, Fowler didn’t have a great performance, but Joey Brunk filled the void having by far the best game of his career. Brunk scored 17 points against Miami after scoring just 25 points all of last season. Brunk needs work defensively, but if his performance in this game is any indication of what he’ll bring to the table this year, Butler should be optimistic.
The Bulldogs have options offensively
With Kelan Martin gone, Butler’s scoring opportunities are up for grabs and against Miami, several guys seized the opportunity. Baldwin, of course, led the charge. But three other guys were in double figures, and another three players chipped in six, seven, and eight points, respectively. Butler scored on all kinds of plays – Brunk post-ups, Baldwin isolations, drive and kicks, post kick-outs, and transition scoring. With several long-range weapons and the individual skills of Baldwin and Brunk, Butler’s offense looked very tough to guard.
Butler looks comfortable
In our season preview of the Bulldogs, we talked about how the roles of Butler’s players are clearly defined going into this season and that everybody should be playing comfortably. This held true in the opener against Miami; there seemed to be very little confusion or missed defensive assignments throughout the game. Butler didn’t appear nervous or rusty, and looked sharp in almost every facet of the game. It seems Butler may be a step ahead of many opponents at this early point in the season.