The Butler Bulldogs came into Friday’s match-up against Marquette shorthanded and in the midst of a three-game losing streak. With things already heading south for the Dawgs, they found out this week that Aaron Thompson would miss the Marquette game with a wrist injury and that Christian David will be out for the season with an ACL tear. Short their two best defenders and facing the hot-shooting Golden Eagles, the Dawgs had a mountain to climb. For most of the game, it seemed that the mountain was too high; then Kamar Baldwin flipped the switch.
Butler trailed for most of the game, but Baldwin scored 15 points in the last ten minutes of the second half to get the Bulldogs back in it. His free throws with eight second remaining even gave Butler a three-point lead, but a Koby McEwan triple forced overtime, which ended up being five more minutes of the Kamar Baldwin show for the Butler faithful packed into Hinkle Fieldhouse. He scored ten in the extra period, propelling Butler to an 89-85 win.
Baldwin finished with 31 points, eight boards, five assists, a pair of blocks, and a steal. He was supported by Sean McDermott who bounced back after his worst game of the season to score 16 and pull down nine rebounds. Henry Baddley was also a huge factor in this one. The senior has struggled for playing time this year, but logged 31 minutes filling in for the injured David and Thompson. He scored ten points, with just one miss from the field and also wreaked havoc defensively, racking up three steals.
Markus Howard scored 26 to lead Marquette, but wasn’t at his best, shooting just 4-18 from three. He was particularly quiet in the second half and had some crucial misses down the stretch. His teammates shot the lights out from behind the arc, combining to shoot 12-20, but the Golden Eagles’ 68.8% free throw percentage and -3 turnover margin helped Butler hang around.
It’s a massive win for Butler who had gone from #5 in the country to #6 in the Big East in a matter of days. Many chalked this one up as a loss when the news about Thompson broke, so LaVall Jordan’s squad has to be ecstatic about this one. It’s a setback for Marquette, no doubt, but the Golden Eagles have been playing well and can surely weather a road loss to the #8 NET team in the country.
Marquette: Perimeter Defense
Marquette got torched on the perimeter in this one. It was an overall poor defensive performance by the Golden Eagles and the only reason they were still in the game is because Theo John was a monster in the paint, recording seven blocks. McDermott and Tucker got too many open looks and when Baldwin turned it on, Marquette didn’t have anybody that seemed able to stop him. If Steve Wojciechowski’s team wants to compete in the Big East and in the NCAA Tournament, they have to find a way to slow down opposing guards and wings.
It was all about Baldwin for Butler. There’s no getting around it. Baddley, McDermott, and others made valuable contributions, but the Bulldogs won this one because Baldwin simply made up his mind that he was going to score just about every time down the court. Butler prefers to win as a team, defending, passing, and rebounding, but this time the Dawgs won simply because they had the best player. This game was a reminder of how dangerous Baldwin can be and how tough the Bulldogs will be now that they’ve got their confidence back.
Marquette plays at Xavier on Wednesday, January 29, at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Butler plays at Georgetown on Tuesday, January 28, at 9:00 p.m. ET.