Butler got off to a slow start on Saturday afternoon, digging themselves a first half hole before a late run gave them a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Roosevelt Jones was the best player on the floor for the No. 18 Bulldogs, notching 21 points, 10 assists and seven boards as the No. 18 Bulldogs beat the Vols, 94-86.
But as good as Jones was, he wasn’t the story of this game.
Kelan Martin was.
The 6-foot-6 forward finished with 25 points and 11 boards off the bench, shooting 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. It was the third straight game that the sophomore finished with more than 20 points in a reserve role; he had 24 points against Indiana State and 20 against VMI after going for 14 points in Butler’s win at Cincinnati.
And if it wasn’t for Martin, Butler may not have won this game. He scored 11 points straight points during a run in the second half that pushed butler’s lead to nine, the first time they were really able to get any separation from the Vols. He also stepped up on a night that Butler’s two best offensive options — Kellen Dunham and Andrew Charbascz — struggled. Dunham shot just 3-for-12 from the floor and -for-11 from three while Charbascz took just three shots from the floor.
This Butler team is going to be fun to watch this year. Unlike the Bulldog teams that we’ve become accustomed to in the past, this group is much more offensive-minded. They want to push tempo. They want to spread the floor. They look to play small-ball, going four-around-one and waiting for Martin and Jones to get mismatches.
They’re never going to be great defensively, not without defensive playmakers, but there aren’t many teams in the country that are as explosive as them.