It was far from easy, but the Butler Bulldogs were winners on Wednesday.
Butler held off a strong effort by the Western Michigan Broncos to start the year 1-0. The Dawgs defeated the upset-minded Broncos, 66-62, as LaVall Jordan is now 3-0 in season openers as head coach.
If not for the fact that Butler was able to pull their lead to eight points with 2:16 to play, a different result could’ve come about. The Broncos kept cutting and cutting at the deficit, but Butler played it well by fouling up three. Titus Wright of the Broncos missed the front end of a one and one, which gave way to Bolden hitting just one free throw to ice it up.
The Dawgs picked up their ninth win in a row in season openers thanks in part to the efforts of Aaron Thompson. Thompson, who’ll be heavily relied on this year after many departures, got off on the right foot. He scored a game- and career-high 21 points on just 6-of-9 shooting from the field. Thompson made buckets from every area of the floor and was also a hearty 8-of-11 from the free throw line. It was a big day for the veteran, who proved he is very capable of leading this Butler team offensively.
The only other Bulldog to get into double figures was Jair Bolden. The grad transfer from the South Carolina Gamecocks scored 15 points in his BU debut. He was a little inefficient, getting those 15 points on 15 shots. But even on an off night, he was able to contribute in big ways. Bolden also chipped in on the glass, pulling down nine rebounds, a team-high mark on a night where they collectively grabbed 32.
Butler was very much affected in the shooting department. As a team, they shot just 40.4 percent and went just 5-for-20 from beyond the 3-point arc. Free throw shooting wasn’t much better, as they shot 62.5 percent on 24 attempts. Their adversaries performed better in every category, which likely tells you why this game wound up being so close. Western Michigan shot 43.5 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3 and 70 percent from the free throw line. The Dawgs will need to shake off that rust and soon, as other Big East teams performed pretty well in those categories tonight.
Elsewhere, the Bulldogs picked up nine points from Bryce Nze, who played just 22 minutes until he succumbed to an ankle injury. Chuck Harris scored seven off the bench, while Bryce Golden added six points of his own. Lastly, JaKobe Coles and Myles Tate each chipped in four.
Butler is currently scheduled to play Eastern Illinois on Sunday.