Kristen Spolyar looks for an open move during Butler’s win over Detroit Mercy on Nov. 13. Photo by Donald Crocker.
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Kristen Spolyar smiled while she signed autograph after autograph, hugged family members and former Butler player Michelle Weaver, and spoke with an admiring Butler professor. Five minutes passed. Understandably so, as the Butler women’s basketball senior guard had just notched a career-high 37 points to lead her team to an 82-60 win over Detroit Mercy on Nov. 13. Butler improves to 2-0, while Detroit drops to 0-3.
Through two games, Spolyar leads the Big East in points per game with 27. That’s an extremely small sample size, but what makes it impressive is that she’s coming off mid-August knee surgery. On multiple occasions, Spolyar performed a euro-step to dodge defenders in the lane.
“I’m just a really instinctual player, so I just feel it out in the game,” Spolyar said. “A lot of the times, I just feel it out in the game, so I gotta be a little more creative about when I go into the lane and be under control. That move, I found I could shift my momentum and try to avoid the contact.”
Every time Butler needed a bucket, Spolyar delivered. In the second half, Butler went through a slump and Detroit Mercy capitalized. Butler’s biggest lead — 22 — came with 5:02 to go in the third quarter. By the 4:53 mark in the fourth quarter, Detroit cut Butler’s lead to ten points, 65-55.
When Butler called timeout, Detroit’s bench mob hopped up, waved towels and chest bumped. As the game tightened, doubt never crept into Spolyar’s mind.
“Never any doubt, I just stay focused,” Spolyar said. “I know that I can get to the basket when I need to. You never let the opponent get in your head, you just continue what you’ve been successful at.”
The preseason All Big-East member accounted for 45% of Butler’s points, but others contributed as well. That’s important — the makings of a second scorer will prove essential as the season progresses. Scoring 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting tonight, Genesis Parker seems a prime secondary scoring candidate.
With freshman guard Tenley Dowell out for the game — she recently underwent an MRI and Butler is reportedly waiting on the results, according to redshirt junior guard/forward Naira Caceres — Parker also took on the lion’s share of point guard duties. A day after turning the ball over six times against Wagner, Parker watched film with the coaches, focusing on her footwork.
“[The coaches] said I can’t have that many turnovers in the games,” Parker said. “Especially with the hard games coming up, can’t have turnovers like that being a point guard. Gotta stay focused.”
Last game, there were two noted issues: turnovers and defense. Butler cut down on the turnovers, recording 17, an improvement over 26 last game. In terms of defense, there’s still room for improvement.
Last season, they mainly deployed a man-to-man defense, with a focus on forcing to the baseline. In this game, they split their “yellow” and “white” defenses — a trapping 2-3 zone and man-to-man — in both halves. They won in the end, but it’s notable that the Bulldogs suffered another defensive breakdown.
“We just let down our guard on defense,” Spolyar said. “We were just getting beat on transition defense and weren’t getting any stops. And usually, our offense is generated from our defense. So we really had to hone back in on defense and get some stops.”
Butler women’s basketball continues their homestand on Nov. 17 against Eastern Kentucky.