Butler vs. DePaul: Beyond the box score

Kelan Martin brings the ball up the court earlier this season. Martin led the Bulldogs with 24 points. Collegian file photo. 

JOSHUA DOERING | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR | jdoering@butler.edu

The Butler men’s basketball team got back in the win column against DePaul. Butler raced out to a 22-point halftime lead and saw the rest of the game out comfortably, which was good to see. The Bulldogs went into Windtrust Arena and did exactly what they should have done, win the game. Here are three takeaways.

1. The Bulldogs played absolutely smothering defense, especially in the first half.

DePaul only had seven points in the first 10:39 of the game, including a scoreless stretch of over seven minutes. The Blue Demons managed a meager 19 points on 28 percent shooting in the first half, leading to a 22-point Butler lead. Kelan Martin was four points away from outscoring the entire Blue Demons team by himself over the opening 20 minutes.

Yes, it was against an 8-10 DePaul team that’s sole Big East win came against St. John’s, who is 0-8 in conference. However, any defensive performance this dominant deserves credit. Butler fell behind 25-5 in this game last year before rallying to win. The Bulldogs made sure things were different this time around. Butler has only given up 137 points in their last two games, both on the road. That’s quite an impressive feat.

2. Butler did a solid job of closing this game out, which needs to continue. 

It’s not realistic to expect any team to score less than 20 points in both halves, so there figured to be a DePaul run at some point after halftime. Things did get a little dicey at a couple points, but the Bulldogs kept their lead in double digits the entire second half. Every spurt by the Blue Demons was immediately answered by Butler.

Butler should be able to gain some confidence from being able to close this game out comfortably. Blown leads are especially hard to swallow and the Bulldogs already let games against Providence and Seton Hall slip away. When a team is up 22 at halftime, they should win with ease. Nonetheless, it was nice to see Butler control a game pretty much from start to finish.

3. Butler took care of business in a game they should win.

The depth of the Big East this season makes winning both games against the teams near the bottom of the league even more important. Had Butler lost this game, the Bulldogs would’ve been in big trouble. They’d already be at eight losses, five in conference, with games at Villanova, at Seton Hall, at Marquette and Xavier at home remaining. Things don’t get any easier moving forward.

There are going to be more defeats between now and the end of the regular season, it’s the reality of playing in such a good conference. Through all of the ups and downs so far this season, one thing Butler has done a really good job of winning the games that they should. It hasn’t always been pretty, but all of the Bulldogs’ losses up to this point are to teams without legitimate NCAA tournament aspirations. If Butler ends up going dancing in March, continuing to avoid bad losses is a must.

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