Butler may be the No. 17 team in the country today, but they’re No. 1 in the state of Indiana as the Bulldogs handed No. 9 Purdue their first loss of the season on Saturday evening, 74-68.
The Bulldogs pulled away midway through the second half, using a 17-4 run that stretched their lead out to 53-37. Purdue would chip away at that lead, getting within seven before Butler’s free throw shooting failed them, but the Bulldogs were able to make just enough from the charity stripe to hold on for the win.
Roosevelt Jones led the way for Butler with 19 points, 11 boards and five assists. Tyler Lewis added 17 points, six boards, four assists and four steals.
Beating Purdue is impressive in and of itself, but how Butler won this game is far more important than the simple fact that they did win. Kellen Dunham, Butler’s leading scorer, was 0-for-12 from the floor on Saturday. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Kelan Martin, Butler’s second leading scorer and the guy that’s averaged 23.0 points over the course of the last three games, finished just 2-for-9 from the field.
Combined they had nine points.
And Butler still won in relatively easy fashion, all things considered.
The Boilermakers have the biggest front line in the country, one that, on paper, looked like it should be able to overpower the Bulldogs. And, to a point, they did, as freshman Caleb Swanigan finished with 25 points and 11 boards while A.J. Hammons chipped in with 12 points. The problem is that size isn’t what is going to beat the Bulldogs. They’re big enough and disciplined enough defensively to take some of that away.
Where Butler can be beaten is off the dribble. Facts are facts: Tyler Lewis, and, to a point, Dunham and Roosevelt Jones, are all somewhere between not great and pretty bad when it comes to their ability to keep penetrating guards out of the lane. The one thing that Purdue does not have on their roster this season is a dynamic playmaker in their back court, someone that can break down a defense and take advantage of Lewis’ limitations.
In other words, this is just not an ideal matchup for Purdue.
And it showed in final box score.