Butler vs. Wofford: Beyond the box score

Kamar Baldwin finished with 23 points and seven rebounds in Butler’s win over Wofford. Photo by Chandler Hart / Butler Collegian.

JOSH MULLENIX | SPORTS EDITOR | jmulleni@butler.edu 

On a night where the Bulldogs held Wofford to 19% from beyond the arc, the Butler men’s basketball team defeated the Terriers 80-61. The Bulldogs move to 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2016. We go beyond the box score of a game that presented a new challenge for Butler.

1. Butler got their first real perimeter defense test, and they passed with flying colors.

Butler’s first three games came against teams that don’t shoot the ball particularly well. Wofford came to Hinkle as the 22nd best 3-point shooting team in the country and the Bulldogs held them to 5-of-27 from beyond the arc. Wofford presented a challenge for Butler, forcing them to chase players around screens and be on every player when they caught the ball on the perimeter. Apart from Storm Murphy knocking down three of his five shots, only two other Terriers knocked down a 3-pointer. Butler forced Nathan Hoover into a 4-of-15 night and 1-of-10 from deep. The Terriers definitely missed some open shots early in the game, but Butler’s perimeter defense tightened up quickly and was a big reason why Wofford struggled in this game. 

Wofford head coach Jay McCauley credited Butler and their ability to switch a lot of positions. The majority of the lineups Butler played in this one allowed them to switch almost every ball screen allowing them to run the Terriers off the 3-point line. Wofford’s undersized lineup allowed Butler to make that adjustment and they made it quickly and effectively. After allowing a couple open shots in the first handful of minutes, the Bulldogs’ perimeter defense was locked in.

2. Kamar Baldwin looked good for the second straight night, and Butler finally shot free throws well.

After missing most of the first two games due to a rib injury, Kamar Baldwin once again looked like the consistent go-to scorer that Butler needs him to be. The senior backed up his 27-point night against Minnesota with a 23-point performance against the Terriers while shooting 53% from the field. It was clear early that Wofford did not have the quickness to stay in front of Butler’s backcourt and Baldwin took advantage of that throughout the night, getting to the front of the rim at will. Despite only knocking down one of his four 3-point attempts, Baldwin got to the rim and the free-throw line with consistency. Most importantly, he knocked down all four of his free throws. 

Coming into tonight, Butler was shooting just 64% from the charity stripe. On this night, they went 16-of-19 from the line. Seven different Bulldogs shot free throws tonight led by Baldwin and Aaron Thompson who both knocked down four. Shooting free throws well is of the utmost importance for Butler and can be the difference between a win and a loss. It wasn’t exactly a game-changer tonight, but Butler’s advantage in this one was on the interior and when they combine that advantage with shooting free throws well, they are going to be hard to beat.

3. Butler closed this game really strong.

With 7:20 left in the second half, the Terriers had cut a second half lead that had hovered around 15 to just 10 and, at one point, had a chance to cut it to single digits. Over the next 4:22, Butler went on a 9-0 run to stretch the lead to 19 when play stopped for the under four media timeout. A team with the shooters that Wofford has is never out of a game, and it only takes a couple of hot minutes to get them back in the game. It looked like that was going to happen until Butler put a quick end to it and pulled away at the end. Wofford made just one of their last 10 shots and didn’t have a field goal in the last 3:17 of the game. 

Last season, Butler struggled to close out games and play all 40 minutes. Blowing a 10-point lead with five minutes left at Xavier comes to mind first. In this one, Butler was faced with a full-court press and a team that takes and makes a lot of threes in the final minutes and took total control deep into this game. 

Final Thought

Khalif Battle played a really solid 11 minutes for Butler in this one. In general, he looked more under control on both ends of the floor, letting the game come to him. On the offensive end, he finished with nine points on 3-of-3 shooting and he made both of his 3-point attempts. He also continues to show improvement on the defensive end which is not easy against a Wofford team that really forces defenses to stay disciplined for a full 30 seconds. If he continues to play the way he did tonight, Battle will play a big part in the Butler rotation as the season progresses. 

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