Enjoy it while it still lasts, folks.
These type of players don’t come around very often.
For a Butler program that boasts three NBA players (Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, and just recently, Kelan Martin) and the best player in school history “Mr. Bulldog” (Matt Howard), All-Big East guard Kamar Baldwin belongs right there in any conversation with any of them.
He’s an all-time Butler program great, and right now, he’s playing like he doesn’t want his collegiate career to end anytime soon.
Baldwin has had the “IT” factor since he arrived at 4600 Sunset Avenue in 2016, but in a career that had seen him play as the ‘Robin’ to Kelan Martin’s ‘Batman’ as a scorer earlier in his Bulldogs’ career, the All-Big East guard (and Jerry West Award finalist) is now Butler’s bonafide alpha dog–who can star in his own superhero featured film.
Baldwin has scored a lot of points for Butler.
He’s made a lot of big buckets for the Bulldogs.
But college basketball’s best ‘closer’ saved one of his best games as a Bulldog for the regular season finale, scoring a career high 36 points (13-25 FG, 5-7 3 PT), 6 rebounds, and 3 assists–including the game-winning 3 pointer in the closing seconds to send the Cintas Center silent and spoil the Musketeers’ Senior Night for good:
Baldwin’s epic night elevated him to 4th all-time on Butler’s career scoring list, as he passed Howard and Bulldog shooting great Kellen Dunham in the second half of Saturday night’s win.
Just how spectacular was Baldwin?
He scored 13 of Butler’s last 15 points in regulation.
He was simply unconscious and couldn’t be stopped.
Right now, there’s no one better in late game situations than him in the entire country.
Who do you want the ball in their hands when the game matters the most?
I’m taking Baldwin, and we’re going to win a lot of games late.
The fact that it came against Butler’s hated Big East rival, Xavier, on their Senior Night–when they needed a win to earn a first round bye in the Big East Tournament and to stay safely in the March Madness bubble just brings a twinkle to any Bulldogs fan’s eye.
As a result of Baldwin’s late game bucket and overall heroics, Xavier will now play DePaul on Wednesday (instead of having a bye and starting their Big East Tournament on Thursday) and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi now has them projected out of the big dance entirely.
How’s that to cap off your Butler regular season career?
As for the game itself, Butler was uncharacteristically sloppy with the basketball as it related to turnovers, low post feeds, and just in their overall care of the basketball–committing 12 turnovers on the night.
Both teams started out ice cold shooting, as Butler had a slim 29-27 lead at halftime, but the Bulldogs and Musketeers started to get going offensively thereafter.
The problem for Butler was the foul disparity though.
Butler got called for 23 fouls to Xavier’s mere 13 fouls, and it seemed like there were a lot more ticky tack fouls going against the Bulldogs.
In a game where starting center Bryce Golden fouled out, the Musketeers were sent to the line 11 more times (25 free throw attempts to Butler’s 14), but the Bulldogs lucked out because Xavier shot just 60% from the free throw line (15-25 FT).
Despite the lopsided foul calls, the one constant of the night for the Bulldogs was Kamar Baldwin–who simply put Butler on his back and carried them to a hard fought victory–on an evening where everything seemed like it was otherwise working against them.
Butler will need to improve its rebounding, as the Musketeers got way too many second and third chance opportunities offensively–despite actually outrebounding Xavier 38-34 on the evening.
They’ll also need stronger offensive outputs from both senior wing Sean McDermott (3 points) and super sixth man Jordan Tucker (3 points) because Baldwin won’t always be this blistering hot from the field to ‘flirt with forty’.
However, the Bulldogs have now won three straight games (for the first time since January 10th) and carry significant momentum into the Big East Tournament–where they’ll square off against Providence on Thursday afternoon (2:30 PM EST, FS1) in a #4/#5 seed matchup.
Currently, the Bulldogs are #25 in KenPom, and Joe Lunardi recently projected them as a #5 seed in the East Region for the NCAA Tournament.
With a win against Providence, Butler could potentially elevate itself to a #4 seed–but either way, the Bulldogs appear to be in pretty good shape just a week ahead of Selection Sunday with a late regular season surge in Big East conference play.