Graduate guard Eric Hunter Jr. picked up his first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds in the win against California on Dec. 11. Photo by Claire Runkel.
MATTHEW CRANE | SPORTS CO-EDITOR | email@example.com
The Butler men’s basketball team defeated California 82-58 at Haas Pavilion to move to 8-3 on the season. Butler ends their non-conference schedule on a four-game winning streak heading into the start of Big East play.
All five Butler starters scored in double figures. Sophomore guards Jayden Taylor and Simas Lukosius led the team with 16 points each. Lukosius finished with a game-best plus/minus of +27. Junior guard Chuck Harris added 14 points. Graduate guard Eric Hunter Jr. made his mark by contributing 13 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out five assists. Hunter Jr.’s double-double was the first of his career and his 11 rebounds were a career-high. Graduate center Manny Bates rounded out the starters with 12 points and four blocks.
California was led by junior Devin Askew and first-year Grant Newell. They each scored a game-high 17 points. The Golden Bears were led in rebounds by senior Lars Thiemann who finished with 10. Seniors Joel Brown and Kuany Kuany added nine points and six points, respectively.
Let’s go beyond the box score to unpack the first road win of the season for the Dawgs.
While this game saw the Bulldogs coast to the win, it was still a sign of things to come for what the rotation might look like very soon. The Bulldogs played nine players with sophomore DJ Hughes making his return after missing the previous four games with a concussion. Junior Myles Wilmoth also made his regular season debut after he was injured during the exhibition slate.
Hunter Jr. played all 40 minutes with Lukosius hitting just over 39 minutes. It can be expected that with the rotation increasing, high minute totals will be a thing of the past. The fact that the team has made it through these heavy minutes early on bodes well for what the team has the ability to accomplish in conference play, especially with more returning players on the horizon.
Seniors Jalen Thomas and Ali Ali traveled with the team out to California and seem to be on the cusp of being cleared for game action. Both players will need to work their way back into the lineup, but will certainly become key cogs in the rotation with their size.
Elite three-point defense
Butler has stifled opponents behind the three-point line this year, holding them to a 29.2% mark. The Golden Bears shot 3-21 for 14.3%. This was the lowest percentage an opponent has shot from behind the arc so far this season against the Bulldogs.
Over the last eight games, Butler’s opponents have shot 39-155 from three. A big part of contesting these shots is that teams are forced to settle from deep. With Manny Bates patrolling the paint and averaging 2.8 blocks per game, some teams are looking to avoid the area altogether.
As a result of the Bulldogs’ defense, the Golden Bears scored 26 points in the paint and were limited to 34.9% from the field. One thing that California did well in the game was forcing fouls, as they attempted 13 foul shots and were able to foul Bates out of the game. However, by the time he fouled out, there was 3:14 left in the game and the Dawgs were in control of the game up 78-55.
If the defense continues to play at a high level and prevent teams from hitting three-pointers, Butler has the ability to pick up some quality wins during conference play. The Bulldogs will be tested early on as they face No. 5 UConn and No. 21 Creighton right out of the gate.
Butler will return to Hinkle Fieldhouse and face the fifth-ranked UConn Huskies on Dec. 17. This will be the fifth matchup between the two teams since UConn rejoined the Big East during the 2020-21 season. The last game saw the Huskies defeat the Bulldogs 75-56 with Chuck Harris scoring 16 points to lead the team. Butler sits at 0-5 all-time against UConn.