“Gritty, not pretty.” LaVall Jordan’s oft-spoken mantra was rarely demonstrated by his Butler team last year, but the Bulldogs brought plenty of grit to their Gavitt Games matchup against Minnesota on Tuesday night. The Dawgs had a terrific defensive performance, effectively taking Marcus Carr out of the game and dominating the turnover battle to come away with a big win at Hinkle.
Marcus Carr came into the game averaging 17.0 points for the Gophers, but Aaron Thompson and Kamar Baldwin never let him out of their sight, holding him to nine points on 1-10 shooting. The Bulldogs forced 18 turnovers and allowed just 56 points despite a 24-point effort by Daniel Oturu.
Offensively, it was a struggle for Butler but Kamar Baldwin came alive when it counted most, scoring 16 points in the last ten minutes of the game to help the Bulldogs pull away. He finished with a fairly quiet 27 that was supplemented by Bryce Nze’s eleven points. Baldwin supplied his usual mix of free throws, layups, and mid-range jumpers while Nze had several nice post buckets.
The win has to be encouraging for Coach Jordan who has been trying desperately to get his team to an elite level defensively over the last few years. Playing good defense and taking care of the ball can cover a multitude of offensive issues as Butler found out on Tuesday.
Butler improved to 3-0 on the season and gave the Big East a 2-1 lead in this year’s Gavitt Games. The Bulldogs also continued their streak — now at 53 games — of non-conference home wins. They will take on the Wofford Terriers next.
Kamar a Star
Kamar Baldwin did what stars do on Tuesday night. The game had been close all night, with Butler usually leading, but Minnesota right behind. For a few minutes in the second half, it was a back and forth contest that looked like it could come down to the last possession, but with about ten minutes remaining, Baldwin decided he the Bulldogs weren’t letting this one slip away.
He flipped a switch and began hunting a bucket on almost every possession. Minnesota played tough defense on him, but he refused to be denied, bullying his way to the basket when he wasn’t surprising the defense with his lightning-quick pull-up jumper. Butler lost so many close games last year that could have been won if someone had stepped up and refused to lose. Baldwin may be that guy this year.
A Guard’s Nightmare
Butler is a guard’s nightmare as Marcus Carr and Payton Willis found out Tuesday night. The two top scorers for Minnesota combined to shoot 5-23 at Hinkle, Not all of this can be attributed to Butler, but a lot of it can. Baldwin and Thompson have always been tough defenders, but they are more experienced than ever and hungry to prove themselves as upperclassmen. They will be extremely tough on opposing guards and since college basketball is traditionally a guards’ game, this bodes well for the Dawgs.
Butler faces Wofford on Saturday, November 16, at 8:00 p.m. ET.