The Bulldogs bounced back from a road loss at St. John's last week with a convincing 78-61 victory over the Providence Friars. The Bulldogs jumped out to and early lead behind 73% shooting in the 1st half. Kelan Martin led all Butler scorers with 15 points and 8 rebounds.
Player of the Game: Kelan Martin
There really was no one player who stood out in what was a very balanced attack for the Bulldogs. He led the Bulldogs with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Martin was actually the only Bulldog who shot under 50% from the floor today, but everyone had their flaws. Nobody really played well enough to deserve player of the game honors, but at the same time everyone contributed. I called Martin out last week for his lack of rebounding, so I'll tip my cap to him tonight for picking up a season high 8 rebounds. [correction: Martin had 9 rebounds last game against St. John's for his season high]
It feels odd after years of the Bulldogs having a weak bench, but the Bulldog reserves can win them games now. Today they outscored the Providence bench 29-5. Woodson and Savage were both in double figures and Fowler had 8 points. Kethan still isn't completely back yet, but he has clearly shaken off some of the rust and has given Holtmann another weapon to work with. It's nice to have a deep and balanced roster to make game planning for the Bulldogs more difficult.
Hot Shooting Bails Out Butler
If you told me Butler could lose both the turnover and the rebounding battle and still win a conference game by 17 points I would have laughed at you. Providence got up 15 more shots than Butler on the night. Luckily Butler shot lights outs with the opportunities they did get, specifically in the first half. They shot 73% in the 1st half and 62% for the game while holding Providence to 39% shooting. That's not a formula that will win games very often though. Rebounding is an issue I've harped on enough, but the turnover problem is a new thing. Butler now has 27 turnovers in 2 conference games. They still rank 13th nationally in turnover rate despite the recent struggles, so hopefully this is just an anomaly and not the start of a new trend.
Brunk missed the last trip to be with his father who had a brain tumor removed. He is going to sit out the year to be able to spend time with his family and Butler will apply for a hardship waiver. Coach Holtmann is optimistic that this will be approved and Brunk will still have 4 years of basketball to play at Butler. We wish all the best to Brunk and his family as they go through this difficult time.
The Bulldogs get the #1 ranked Villanova Wildcats next. Butler must play much better than they did tonight if they want to knock off the top team in the country. It's still early for a must-win game, but if the Bulldogs drop this game at home it will likely mean they must win the return game at Villanova to have a shot at knocking the Wildcats from their Big East throne, and it goes without saying that's a very tall task and a position Butler doesn't want to be in.