Joey Brunk lays the ball in against Youngstown State. Brunk had four of Butler’s 36 bench points in the game. Photo courtesy of Jimmy Lafakis.
JOSHUA DOERING | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler men’s basketball team continued their winning ways, dispatching Youngstown State in comfortable fashion. It was another all-around solid performance from the Bulldogs and the outcome was never really in doubt. Here are three takeaways.
1. Butler’s defense continues to get better and better.
It took 15 minutes for the Bulldogs to be called for a foul in this game. Over that stretch, Youngstown State only scored 14 points and shot 29 percent from the floor. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, going almost an entire half without committing a single foul is extremely impressive. Butler played great defense and did so without fouling.
Since the PK80 tournament, the Bulldogs have looked like a different team defensively. They forced 11 turnovers in the first half and were only whistled for times while doing so. That means Butler was playing smart, aggressive defense and moving their feet. This team has always had potential to be an elite defensive team, but it’s taken some time to get there.
2. The Bulldog bench showed up in a big way.
Butler didn’t record a single bench point against Utah. The bench responded in a big way this game, contributing 36 points. Nate Fowler, Christian David, Jerald Gillens-Butler and Joey Brunk all posted season highs against Youngstown State as reserves. Five different Bulldogs scored coming off the bench.
While they were the beneficiaries of extended playing time because of the blowout, it was a good sign to see so many players making an impact. With Paul Jorgensen taking the injured Sean McDermott’s spot in the starting lineup, Butler’s bench has become thin. The starters are going to have to pick up the slack until McDermott returns, but solid production from the bench would be a huge boost.
3. The Purdue game will be Butler’s toughest test to date by a wide margin.
There’s only so much you can learn from playing a team ranked 349th out of 351 teams in RPI. The Dec. 16 showdown with the Boilermakers at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse will provide a much better measuring stick for this Butler team. Purdue already boasts road wins over Maryland and Marquette, as well as victories over Arizona, Northwestern and Louisville.
After a rough tournament in the Bahamas, the Boilermakers are playing their best basketball of the season. They are currently in the top 15 in both RPI and kenpom. It seems like Butler has turned a corner starting with the comeback win over Ohio State in the PK80. Seven days from now, we will find out if that’s the case. The Bulldogs from the past three games need to show up on Saturday.