Butler surprising everyone but themselves through 4 games
They knew it once they were able to assemble as a whole this summer, but the Butler Bulldogs had a feeling that they could probably turn first-year head coach Brandon Miller’s head coaching debut into something special.
Butler finds itself undefeated through 4 games and have faced some pretty good competition in doing so.
One big thing that was a big plus was that the Bulldogs were very fortunate to be able to open the 2013-14 campaign with three consecutive home games at Hinkle Fieldhouse. With a lot of inexperienced players and many newcomers, there couldn’t be a better way to open the season, than on their home court.
It wasn’t until the fourth game that they were forced to hit the road, but it was a short road trip, as the Bulldogs traveled up I-69 to Ball State in Muncie, Indiana to face the Cardinals at Worthen Arena.
Butler 89, Lamar 58 (November 9)
The Lamar Cardinals were kind of a quirky opponent to open the season against. Coached by Pat Knight, son of legendary former Indiana University head coach Bob Knight, you could just assume that he would recruit players that are athletes who want to be winners.
Nimrod Hilliard (23 points), Donovan Ross (18) and Amos Wilson (9) struck quite a resemblance to that of an opponent Butler saw three times during Atlantic 10 play last year. Their style and scrappiness of play had streaks of the Saint Louis Billikens. The only problem was that Lamar just couldn’t finish plays off in the second half, which allowed the Bulldogs to roll over the Cardinals 51-26 in the final 20 minutes for an 89-58 runaway season-opening victory.
Senior forward Khyle Marshall would take charge to lead Butler with 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 13 rebounds. His offensive outburst was aided by 13 from Kellen Dunham, 11 by Kameron Woods and Erik Fromm pitching in 10.
Butler 70, Princeton 67 (November 16)
The Bulldogs knew that facing an opponent like Princeton would pose some problems on both ends of the court. Princeton has been known for years for setting up their offense to run the famous play called, “The Back Door.” Trailing the Princeton Tigers of the Ivy League for the first 13 minutes of the first half, Butler figured out exactly what it needed to do to take the Tigers right out of their scheme and win the ball game.
Keeping at it on defense for a solid 40 minutes of hard-nosed basketball is exactly how Butler got it done to take down Princeton. Tenacious defense and knocking down 38% (9-24) from outside the arc were just two facets of the game where Butler was able to be that much better than the Tigers to pull out the three-point victory.
Sophomore guard Kellen Dunham scored a career-high 26 points on 50% overall shooting, while drilling 4-for-8 from three-point land. Three others joined KD in double-figures. After just 5 points in his debut vs. Lamar in the opener, Elijah Brown netted 13 points off the bench. Kameron Woods notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards for the junior. Senior Erik Fromm had 10 for the second consecutive game.
Butler 85, Vanderbilt 77 (OT) (November 19)
Last season, Butler was able to pull off the upset over the Commodores in Nashville. This time, Vanderbilt wanted to bring Southeastern Conference (SEC) basketball to Indianapolis and give the Butler faithful a taste of what their southern flavor of hoops is all about. Vanderbilt has had some pretty decent seasons of late and made it to the NCAA Tournament six times since 2004. Their best success was Sweet 16 appearances in 2004 and 2007.
Butler was able to control the tempo of the game in the first half and took a 38-30 lead into the locker room. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings circled the wagons and must have given his Commodores a wake up call during halftime, as they were able to take charge for a majority of the second half to outscore the Bulldogs 40-32, forcing overtime.
The Bulldog offense was anchored by their leader, Khyle Marshall. He was simply a mad man on the hardwood and did not want to lose this game, no matter what it took. Marshall led the Dawgs with a team-high 26 points on 11-for-15 field goals. It wasn’t the fact that Khyle scored 26, is was the fashion he was able to do it.
With just 5 points at the half, it seemed like a switch flipped on inside of Marshall and the second half and overtime belonged to the 6’6 senior from Davie, Florida. Toward the end of regulation, Khyle scored 16 of Butler’s final 22, but most importantly, he was able to outscore Vanderbilt 9-7 in the extra period. Obviously with Marshall’s career night, Butler was able to pull away from Vandy 15-7 in overtime for an 85-77 win.
Dunham and Kam Woods were a great supporting cast, once again. KD finished with 16, while Woods put together a pretty good stat line of 10 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocked shots. Junior Jackson Aldridge and freshman Andrew Chrabascz each pitched in with 7 each.
Butler 59, Ball State 58 (November 23)
Different situations and matchups force different personnel to step up and make their presence known. In most cases, I think it’s someone that doesn’t normally show up in a scouting report or does something significant when watching them on film in preparation.
Butler knew that their first road test would literally be a test. Neither team shot the ball well, which makes you wonder which of these two would come out on the better end of this game and wind up with the win.
Defensively, Butler exceled by forcing Ball State to turn the ball over 17 times. The host Cardinals weren’t rattled, for the most part, being on their home floor at Worthen Arena in front of 6,015 in attendance.
Ball State took a seven-point advantage into halftime, up 30-23. BSU expanded their lead to 11 with a 12-8 run to start the second half for a 42-31 lead. From that point on, Butler would make the second half theirs 36-28, to eventually steal a 59-58 road victory.
The Bulldogs were tested beyond what they imagined, but knew exactly what would be needed to happen. Alex Barlow and Elijah Brown stepped up and sparked a 16-2 run for BU that would put Butler up by three.
With that three-point lead, Butler was outscored 14-12 in the final 8 minutes, but that still gave them a one-point win. Kameron Woods sparked the Butler offense scoring 6 of his 12 in the final eight minutes, but Ball State guard Jesse Berry kept the Cardinals in a one possession game with all 7 of his points in the final five minutes of play.
Majok Majok led all scorers with a game-high 15 points, while Chris Bond added 14 for the Cardinals.
Marshall led Butler with a team-high 14, while Elijah Brown tied his career-high with 13 off the bench. Woods had another double-double with 12 points and 10 boards and point guard Alex Barlow added 10.
Where the Bulldogs (4-0) go from here…
It may not have been the stiffest competition in their first four games early on in the season, but they can honestly say they’ve been tested by their opponents.
Lamar gave Butler a game, but only for the first half, before the Bulldogs ran away with a 31-point win. Princeton took Butler down to the wire, but Butler was able to prevail and slip away by three. Vanderbilt gave the Bulldogs the most they could take, forcing overtime, before Butler won by 8 in the extra period. Ball State gave Butler their biggest scare as an undefeated team, but found a way to escape Muncie with a 59-58 win.
As expected, Khyle Marshall and Kellen Dunham lead Butler in scoring. Each are averaging 15.8 per contest. Kameron Woods is just about putting up double digits in both scoring (11.0) and rebounding (9.0). Freshman Elijah Brown has slowly, but surely gotten himself into a comfort zone of late, averaging 8.8 per game and give head coach Brandon Miller quality minutes off the bench. Alex Barlow is dishing out 3.2 assists a game, while also compiling a 4.3/1 assist to turnover ratio. As a team, Butler is committing 8 turnovers and causing 15. They’re hitting the boards to outrebound opponents by an average of 36-34.
The Butler bench has also been able to rotate four other key role players into the lineup to contribute. Junior Jackson Aldridge, sophomore Devontae Morgan, along with freshmen Rene Castro and Andrew Chrabascz have all pitched in to play their part in getting the Bulldogs off to this 4-0 start.
This week will be Butler’s toughest of the season. The Bulldogs (4-0) compete in the Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, featuring some pretty hefty competition. They open up play on Thanksgiving Day at 2 p.m. against Washington State (2-2). On Friday, November 29, they’ll face either the winner of Purdue (5-0) vs. Oklahoma State (4-0) or the loser of that Boilermakers/Cowboys matchup. Depending on the outcome of those games, Butler could face Saint Joseph’s (2-1), Siena (2-4), Memphis (2-1) or LSU (3-1) on Sunday, December 1.