Graduate student center Manny Bates rises up for a thunderous dunk over a Privateer defender on Nov. 7. Photo by Lauren Hough.
KOBE MOSLEY | MANAGING EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
Butler men’s basketball begins their regular season with an 89-53 blowout victory over the New Orleans Privateers. Graduate student center Manny Bates shined in his debut for the team, leading all players in points and rebounds with 25 points and 11 rebounds — he also logged a game-high three blocks.
The other four starters all scored in double figures: junior guard Chuck Harris had 17 points, graduate student guard Eric Hunter Jr. ended with 14, sophomore guard Jayden Taylor scored 12 points and sophomore guard/forward Simas Lukosius rounded out the group with 11. Off the bench, sophomore guard/forward Pierce Thomas contributed big minutes and ended with a four-point, five-rebound and three-steal statline.
On the New Orleans side, guard Jordan Johnson led the Privateers with 15 points on 5-9 shooting. Forward Tyson Jackson also cracked double-digits with 14 points. Outside of Johnson and Jackson, New Orleans was unable to get much going and turned the ball over religiously with 30 total turnovers. Let’s go beyond the box score to unpack the Dawgs’ big win in front of a sold-out Hinkle.
Manny Bates is a DAWG
Both literally and figuratively, Manny Bates proved why he was such a highly-touted transfer and key piece to the team. On an efficient 12-15 shooting, Manny was dominant in the paint and even showed a little bit of range with a couple of jumpers. And of course, Bates had to make a few posters out of defenders.
Butler has longed for a versatile big man that can establish a respectable presence in the paint, both offensively and defensively. The impact that Bates has on both sides of the ball is something the Bulldogs will want to replicate going forward, especially with much of the team’s frontcourt out with injury. Matta and the coaching staff seemed to do a great job with regulating Bates’s minutes and weren’t afraid to go small with sophomore forward D.J. Hughes throughout the game. Once the Bulldogs are at full health, this frontcourt, led by Bates, is going to be fun to watch.
Three-point shooting woes
It was a great thing that the Dawgs were dropping in shots in and around the paint because they were not able to get much going at all from beyond the arc. Butler shot just 4-24 from three-point range, three of them coming in the second half. When asked about the lack of three-pointers, Harris wasn’t worried at all.
“We know we can make those shots,” Harris said. “They’re gonna fall, they didn’t tonight, but they will fall.”
Head coach Thad Matta also expressed the same sentiment, hinting that his team’s shot selection wasn’t the problem.
“That’s going to help our inside-out game,” Matta said. “… We have shot the basketball at an alarming rate up to this point and I think it’s just something that once we start getting things going, it’s going to be fine because we have a lot of guys that can shoot the basketball. And I have great confidence, I didn’t say anything like ‘That was a bad shot’ [tonight]. We just got to really catch our groove and go from there and it’ll make us a better basketball team, that’s for sure.”
Taylor, who shot 1-7 from three in the team’s two exhibition games, continued to struggle with an 0-6 shooting performance tonight. He was still able to contribute on offense thanks to his tenacity on the boards and excellent free throw shooting — pulling down six boards and going 6-6 from the charity stripe. That type of play is what the Dawgs will need from him until his own shooting woes dissipate.
Next up for the Bulldogs
Butler will have plenty of rest before their next matchup in University Park for a Gavitt Tip-Off Games showdown against Penn State on Nov. 14. There were no new updates on senior forward Ali Ali, so it seems like he will be out once again for this one. Junior forward Myles Wilmoth is also out indefinitely.
For the Nittany Lions, they also won their season opener with a 93-68 win over Winthrop on Nov. 7. Last season’s leading scorer guard Jalen Pickett led the team in scoring once again with 23 points. Transfer Andrew Funk was right behind Pickett, scoring 22 points and hitting six of the team’s 18 three-pointers. Both Pickett, Funk, and guard/forward Seth Lundy will be players to watch for Penn State in this one.