Not only was it another solid win against a Power 5 conference school for the Bulldogs, but Butler kept its now 56 consecutive non-conference home winning streak alive–the longest such active streak in the country.
The Bulldogs were led by the play of Aaron Thompson–who was simply terrific. The junior starting point guard finished with 16 points (6 for 7 FG), 7 assists, 0 turnovers, and 4 rebounds.
However, the individual stats don’t paint the entire picture of Thompson’s overall effectiveness on Saturday.
He helped set the tone for the Bulldogs offensively and defensively–and came up with several huge baskets both early and late in the one–when Butler really needed them to regain or stop momentum.
They were heavily aided by the shooting (and production) of senior wing Sean McDermott with 16 points (4-9 FG, 3-7 3 PT), 7 rebounds, and 3 assists, as well as junior wing Jordan Tucker, who had 13 points (3-8 FG, 3-6 3 PT), 3 rebounds, a block, and an assist.
Perhaps, that was the most impressive aspect of this victory for the Bulldogs against another quality opponent.
Up to this point, the Bulldogs had been carried offensively by Baldwin, but due to early foul trouble, and some stingy perimeter defense by the Gators, the All-Big East guard could never really get truly going for Butler–finishing with 12 points (4-13 FG, 2-5 3 PT).
Don’t get me wrong, Baldwin was still very good–hitting several key buckets, but he wasn’t the sheer offensive force that he had been in previous wins for Butler so far this season.
The Bulldogs needed to show that other key players could contribute and step-up when Baldwin either: A) had an off-day shooting or B) was taken away by opposing defenses.
They largely did just that on Saturday afternoon.
The defense for the Bulldogs also once again made scoring challenging for the opposition.
They limited the Gators to just 6 of 26 (23.1%) from 3 point range–helping the Bulldogs lead by as many as 19 points in this one.
Senior transfer big man Kerry Blackshear Jr. led the Gators with 17 points (5-10 FG, 1-6 3 PT) and 5 rebounds–who also got significant contributions from sophomore guards Andrew Nembhard (11 points) and Noah Locke (11 points).
It wasn’t enough, as Butler added another big win to their aspiring March résumé.
Not only are the Bulldogs undefeated (9-0), but they’ve jumped to #13 overall in the KenPom rankings–and figure to rise at least a few spots from their current #24 slot in next week’s AP poll.
The Bulldogs will face one of their toughest tests on Tuesday, as they’ll take on the #18 Baylor Bears in Waco, Texas, as part of the inaugural Big 12-Big East Challenge.