Sophomore guard Jayden Taylor recorded 12 points and seven rebounds in Butler’s 91-55 win over Davenport on Nov. 1. Photo by Lauren Hough.
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Butler men’s basketball ended exhibition play in dominant fashion with a 91-55 victory over Division II Davenport on Nov. 1. All five starters for the Bulldogs scored in double figures, led by a 22-point performance by junior guard Chuck Harris. With junior forward Myles Wilmoth out, sophomore guard/forward Simas Lukosius added 15 points. Both sophomore guard Jayden Taylor and graduate student center Manny Bates ended with 12 points. Rounding out the starting five was graduate student guard Eric Hunter Jr., who scored 10 points and tied a game-high six assists.
Butler’s offense shined, vastly improving in all areas. The biggest difference was plainly execution and hitting shots. Butler shot 64% from the field in this contest — much better than the 47% that they shot from the field versus Tiffin. Even when players were not hitting shots, they were getting back on defense, locking down their opponent and helping push the ball down the court in transition to get easy opportunities for their teammates. This is the kind of play that frankly has been missing from Butler basketball in recent seasons. Continuing to build on this play will make for some entertaining games this season. Let’s dive deeper into this win by going beyond the box score in Butler’s last exhibition game before the regular season.
Dawgs are playing fast but efficient offense
The statistic that perhaps explains just how fast Butler has been playing is points from fastbreaks. The Bulldogs outscored the Panthers 23-2 in the category. A major contributor to this has been Hunter Jr., whose veteran experience and basketball IQ has done wonders for this offense and limited the number of bad shot selections. And aside from a few turnovers, junior guard Myles Tate had a great game — eight points, six assists, two steals. All six of his assists were beautiful finds and showed that Tate will definitely be a part of the guard rotation going forward.
In terms of scoring, the first half was the Chuck Harris show. 18 of Harris’s 22 points came in the first 20 minutes. He was aggressive and efficient, shooting 7-9 from the field and 2-3 from beyond the arc. Part of the reason he was able to impose his will was the added strength he gained during the offseason, something he says he focused on.
“Yeah, that was kind of a big focus for me in the offseason, just getting stronger and more athletic,” Harris said. “Obviously last year, being kind of an undersized team, I felt like I wasn’t physically built enough to handle the situations we were in. So it was definitely a big priority for me this year to just getting stronger, so I can make a switch on the bigs and take some of those tough blows.”
In addition to his scoring, Harris grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. He smiled when the stat came up during the postgame press conference, as it was something head coach Thad Matta undoubtedly got onto him about after not recording a single board in the Tiffin game on Oct. 29.
“Coach made it a big priority for our guards to lead us in rebounds,” Harris said.
Taylor also got the memo, grabbing seven rebounds of his own. He struggled shooting the ball in this game — 5-12 from the field, 1-6 from the three-point line — but still made sure he had his hand in this win.
Defense turned up the heat
After giving up 40 points to Tiffin in the second half on Oct. 29, Butler tightened up defensively. Davenport started off hot, hitting eight of their first 15 shots. From then on, the Panthers struggled to get anything going. Davenport redshirt sophomore Marcedus Leech Jr. scored 11 points early for the Panthers. Once Hunter Jr. took over defensive duties on Leech Jr., he would only score five points the rest of the game, consequently handicapping Davenport’s offense.
When Butler played zone, the Panthers struggled to get downhill and pass or score. The Bulldogs also won their defensive one-on-one matchups — an important thing to start now and build on as the regular season starts soon.
Turnovers were also an area where the Bulldogs did well. Butler only committed 10 turnovers, while Davenport committed 20. With both the offense and defense looking active and efficient, Butler is in a good place to keep building and continue winning basketball games.
Looking ahead to the regular season
After improving in all aspects of the game, the Bulldogs turn their attention to the regular season opener. With the offense on a roll during the game, Matta undoubtedly would like to see it continue despite the team being without senior guard/forward Ali Ali and senior forward/center Jalen Thomas for the foreseeable future. The Dawgs will look to carry their momentum from this game into the matchup on Nov. 7 against New Orleans.
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