Senior guard DJ Davis scored 15 points in the win over East Tennessee State on Nov. 13. Photo courtesy of Butler Athletics.
CALEB DENORME | ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR | email@example.com
The Bulldogs are now 3-0 to start the season after three blowout victories. Butler has been able to win games while excelling at different aspects in each contest. The squad has shown consistent improvement over these first three games despite facing inferior competition.
Senior guard DJ Davis led the way with a team-high 15 points on 66% shooting. Davis added five rebounds, four assists and a steal on the night. Senior guard Posh Alexander had yet another strong performance, scoring 13 points while dishing out four assists. He also brought in two steals on a night where the Bulldogs had seven as a team.
After jumping out to a huge lead in the first half, the bench players got significant playing time throughout the rest of the game. Sophomore guard Landon Moore bounced back from a rough past game and scored 12 points, all off of three pointers. Sophomore forward Connor Turnbull had seven points on the night and accounted for all of Butler’s six blocks.
Stifling defense leads into explosive offense
Both teams started off slow from an offensive standpoint and the game remained close for the first eight minutes. That is when the Butler offense woke up and went on a scoring spree, creating a 25 point lead by halftime.
This run was spurred on by a string of ETSU turnovers forced by Butler’s defense. The Bucs turned over the ball 13 times in the first half, which led the Bulldogs to capitalize on the offensive end. Butler scored 26 points off of ETSU turnovers in the first half alone, which allowed them to create the gap. Coach Thad Matta emphasized the importance that the defense has in creating transition opportunities.
“We talk to our guys about [how] really good teams score off of their defense,” Matta said. “I thought our guys did a really good job tonight with what we thought East Tennessee State was going to do.”
What ETSU did was shoot 31% from the field and turn the ball over 19 times on the road to losing by 34. Those extra possessions that Butler’s defense forced resulted in 36 points and a blowout victory in front of the home crowd.
The Bulldogs will have to repeat this total team effort of offense and defense on Friday if they want to beat Michigan State. ETSU was a test, but Michigan State will really show what this Butler team is made of.
Consistent scoring from the starters and leaning on depth
Of the Bulldogs’ five starters tonight, four of them finished with double digits in the scoring column. When thinking about this team compared to last year, that is a huge jump.
Last season Butler had to lean heavily on the shoulders of Jayden Taylor and Manny Bates to put points on the board. If those two did not get going, the likelihood of a Bulldog victory decreased. The starters this year have consistently contributed and have done a good job of picking up the slack when one of their teammates is having a hard night.
This offseason, Matta went into the portal and found guys that can score and play team basketball on the offensive end. The ability to go ten guys deep into the bench is something the coaching staff has utilized early in the season. It showed tonight, with Butler going ten deep in the first half. Matta highlighted how important depth will be as the season goes on.
“When you come into the game, you gotta give us something,” Matta said. “You gotta give us energy, gotta give us rebounding. You know it’s funny, you think about this time last year we didn’t have ten guys.”
Butler will need to lean on their depth going into the next few games against tougher competition. First on the slate is a matchup at Michigan State on Nov. 17. That game is followed by a trip down to Florida for the ESPN Events Invitational, where the Dawgs will face off against Florida Atlantic on Nov. 23.