The #12 Butler Bulldogs won in convincing fashion on Saturday evening, beating UL Monroe 67-36 at the friendly confines of Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler was a heavy favorite entering the matchup, and if there was any fear of the Bulldogs having a “holiday hangover” of sorts, playing just a few days after Christmas, they sure didn’t show it.
The Bulldogs’ defense once again was downright stingy, as they limited the Warhawks to just 23.3% shooting from the field (14-60) and 18.8% (3-16) from the 3 point line.
The Warhawks’ leading scorers, All-Sun Belt guard Michael Ertel (16.7 ppg) (from local Mount Vernon High School) and his backcourt mate J.D. Williams (16.0 ppg) were held to just 5 points a piece on a combined 4-27 (14.8%) shooting.
That was in part because of the terrific backcourt defense yet again by Butler starting point guard Aaron Thompson, as well as shooting guard Kamar Baldwin–and great help team defense by the Bulldogs as a whole.
Offensively, the Bulldogs did not shoot particularly well from the field, shooting just 28.0% (7-25) from 3 point range.
In particular, All-Big East guard Kamar Baldwin continued in his mini-shooting slump, scoring just 3 points (1-11 FG, 1-6 from 3 pt.). However, he still impacted this game positively, adding 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
Baldwin has just 10 points total in the Bulldogs’ last three games on a combined 4 of 28 shooting (14.3%), but he’s found other ways to make meaningful contributions to the Bulldogs’ success–and perhaps most importantly, the Bulldogs are still 3-0 during his shooting slump.
Instead, the Bulldogs got a surprise scoring contribution from backup big man Derrik Smits, who continues to earn more meaningful minutes with the Bulldogs–still fresh off of rehabilitating a lingering knee injury that has limited him to just two games to start the season.
Smits was the Bulldogs leading scorer with 16 points (5-7 FG), and the grad transfer big man has shown a lot of polish both scoring in the low post and passing out of it. One can easily see how solid his fundamentals and footwork are for a 7 footer at times, as the son of former Indiana Pacers all-star center Rik Smits.
The Bulldogs also outrebounded the Warhawks 43 to 34 on the evening.
The Bulldogs received strong bench production among others from senior wing Henry Baddley (7 points) on a perfect 3 for 3 shooting in a workmanlike effort, as well as from freshman guard Khalif Battle (5 points)–who continues to show early flashes of being a potential future standout with his ability to shoot, drive-and-dish, and finish around the rim in tantalizing fashion. (The freshman’s defense is also starting to improve.)
As a result of the blowout victory, the Bulldogs increased their non-conference home winning streak to a robust 58 games–the longest such active streak in the country.
It was the final tune-up for the Bulldogs (12-1) before starting Big East conference play on the road against the St. John’s Red Storm (11-2) on Tuesday, December 31st at 7:30 PM EST (FS1) to bring in the New Year.
The Bulldogs are currently #7 in the KenPom rankings, but the Red Storm just beat #16 Arizona a week ago, so it’ll no doubt be a tough challenge for the Bulldogs–as are most Big East road games these days.