The Butler Bulldogs needed a strong response after getting upset by Indiana State in Terre Haute earlier this week. They delivered. Butler knocked of a tough Cincinnati squad 75-65 behind a team high 20 points from Kelan Martin, who was dropped from the starting lineup in favor of redshirt freshman Sean McDermott. The Bulldogs also got 12 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds from senior Andrew Chrabascz.
This was Butler's best performance yet
On paper this wasn't Butler's best win. Their neutral win against Arizona and road win against Utah were both better victories. But Cincinnati came into Hinkle Fieldhouse and played better than anyone the Bulldogs have seen so far this season. Butler had to be on top of their game to beat a pesky Bearcat team, and they were. It was a total team effort from start to finish in probably the most complete game this team has played all year. It's great to see Butler playing well heading into next weekend's marquee matchup against Indiana.
Nate Fowler had the best game of his career
The Cincinnati native showed why he was once a highly coveted four star recruit before injuries derailed the tail end of his high school career. The sophomore scored 9 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in just 13 minutes of play. He displayed a couple of nice moves in the post as well as his range that extends out to the 3 point line. One part of his game that I absolutely love is his ability to wall up in the post and defend without fouling. Too many bigs get caught trying too hard to block shots and end up giving away a layup or fouling because they get out of position. Fowler stays vertical in his own space and makes the defense earn everything over the top.
Butler is still getting beat on the glass
Butler gave up 11 more offensive rebounds in this one while only grabbing 7 themselves. On the year their offensive rebounding percentage is only 1.1% higher than their opponents (28.2% vs 27.1%). With no more weak opponents to pad stats on [insert St. John's or DePaul joke here], Butler is in danger of being out rebounded for the season for the 1st time since 2007-2008 if they don't reverse the trend. The good news is the guards were very active on the glass in this one. The starting backcourt of Tyler Lewis and Kamar Baldwin (who also made his 1st career start) combined for 11 rebounds.
Assist:turnover topped 2:1
In Butler's previous 4 games against high major opponents they had more assists than turnovers in only 1 (14 assists to 12 turnovers against Vanderbilt). Against Cincinnati, the best defense Butler has faced, the Bulldogs had 13 assists to 6 turnovers. They didn't commit a single turnover in the 2nd half. That's a drastic turnaround. Butler's offense is at its best when they are moving the ball and not forcing 1-on-1 opportunities. Kelan Martin gets all the glamour, but Tyler Lewis and his 3.7:1 turnover:assist ratio is the real star of the offense. Play tends to get a little stagnant when he goes to the bench.
Butler returns to action on Saturday against Indiana as part of the Crossroads Classic. As of now all 4 teams in the event are ranked in the top 25. Butler has the best record at 4-1 during the 5 year history of the Crossroads Classic.