Kamar Baldwin finished with 24 points, nine boards and five assists while Kelan Martin added 27 points of his own as No. 10 seed Butler found a way to turn a rout into an exciting basketball game.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-2 led less than seven minutes into the first half and advanced to the second round of the tournament, and a date with in-state rival and No. 2 seed Purdue, with a 79-62 win over Arkansas, but the game was no where near as simple as it sounds.
Arkansas, after trailing by 19 points in the first half, used a 16-0 run to take a 29-27 lead. Butler would again jump out and take control early in the second half, but another surge pulled them within three — 53-50 — midway through the half. Butler was able to withstand both runs from Arkansas, which is not surprising given the nature of that program, and it’s a good sign as we move into the second round.
Butler will get another shot at Purdue on Sunday. The first time these two teams faced off, the Boilermakers picked up an 82-67 win. But this time around, Purdue will be without star center Isaac Haas, whose fractured elbow will keep him out for the rest of the tournament. This opens the door for the Bulldogs, who actually matchup pretty well with the post-Haas Boilermakers.
There’s nothing better than an in-state rivalry game in the NCAA tournament, but perhaps the real talking point here is the job that has been done by the current and the former Butler head coaches. Chris Holtmann left the Bulldogs in June to take over at Ohio State, and he has the Buckeyes in the second round of the NCAA tournament after winning Coach of the Year in that league. No one thought that team had a prayer of getting to the Big Dance, and Thad Matta was fired because the team wasn’t going to be good enough for Ohio State standards.
And LaVall Jordan?
He wasn’t exactly walking into the easiest situation to take over, either. They were losing three starters and a coach that many thought of as one of the sport’s up-and-coming stars.
Both men are in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
How many people saw that coming?