BY KYLE BEERY | STAFF REPORTER
The Butler basketball team is off to a 6-1 start this season and sits in the No. 23 spot in the AP Top 25 Poll. The Bulldogs host a young Big Ten team in the Northwestern Wildcats Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse Saturday. Butler has beaten Northwestern in each of the teams’ last three meetings, the most recent being a 74-65 win in Evansville.
Tale of the Tape
The Bulldogs come in with one blemish on their record – a 59-46 loss against Oklahoma in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
The Bulldogs are a perfect 3-0 inside Hinkle Fieldhouse this season – three blowout wins over Maine, Chattanooga, and Loyola-Maryland to open the season.
Junior Kellen Dunham leads the Bulldogs with 16.4 points per game. Senior Kameron Woods is owning the glass for the Bulldogs, grabbing a team-high 9.1 rebounds per game, including eight offensive rebounds and 13 total in a 74-66 upset of then No. 5 North Carolina.
Butler is 13-4 in its last 17 games against Big Ten opponents.
The Wildcats got off to a hot start this season, winning their first five games before losing two straight – a 61-42 rout against Northern Iowa in the Cancun Challenge, and a 68-58 loss against Georgia Tech earlier this week in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
The young Wildcats feature six freshmen and two sophomores on the 13-man roster. JerShon Cobb averages 21.6 minutes per game, most among the three seniors on the roster. The Wildcats start two freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors.
On top of leading the team in scoring average, Olah, a 7-foot junior, leads the Wildcats with 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.
Butler has handled opponents’ size pretty well this year, holding 6’9″ UNC forward Kennedy Meeks and Georgetown’s Joshua Smith (6’10”, 350 lbs.) to seven points each in the Bahamas. The Bulldogs will need to do more of the same going up against Olah and 6’7″ forward Vic Law on Saturday. They’ll likely turn to Woods and 6’7″ sophomore Andrew Chrabascz to handle Olah and Law in the post.
The Bulldogs have defended the three-point shot well this season, with opponents shooting 24 percent from deep on the season. That could be a problem for the Wildcats, as they are shooting 32 percent on the year. In fact, Butler’s overall defense ranks among the best in the country. The Bulldogs are holding opponents to 54.4 points per game – the 15h best mark in the land. Butler senior Alex Barlow was featured in a Fox Sports promotion of the game, noting his ability to steal the ball – he is averaging just over two steals per game and has shut down the likes of UNC’s Marcus Paige and Georgetown’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
The game is nationally televised on Fox and starts at 4:30 p.m.