The Butler Bulldogs look to start this season off on the right foot after securing a hard-fought exhibition win over the Lincoln Memorial Railsplitters, 86 – 79, Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse. This one was a doozy! A win is a win and a loss is a loss, but both teams certainly had highlights and made strong statements with their play. At times, this match felt really intense for an exhibition game – there was a sharp contrast in atmosphere from Butler’s previous game against the Hanover Panthers.
Butler led off with the same starting lineup as last game: guards Kamar Baldwin and Paul Jorgensen, and forwards Kelan Martin, Sean McDermott and Tyler Wideman.
After a brief slow start for both teams, Baldwin and McDermott got the Dawgs’ offense going. Baldwin found an open lane and drove in on the left, which caused the entire LMU defense to collapse to the paint. Without hesitation, Baldwin passed back to McDermott at the top of the key for a wide open 3. Splash.
The Railsplitters answered, however, and with 15:58 left in the first half the game was tied 7 – 7.
Butler then turned to the paint for baskets. Martin scored his first points with a nice up and under move, and Wideman had a couple of good looks down low up to this point but his shot didn’t fall consistently until later in the game.
Lincoln Memorial attacked the paint also, and F Emmanuel Terry of the Railsplitters found great success down low from the beginning, but even moreso later on. Wideman also got into foul trouble, which hurt Butler’s defense near the basket.
At the 15:00 mark, Aaron Thompson and Nate Fowler were the first to check in for Jorgensen and Wideman. It wasn’t long after when LMU scored and took the lead 12 – 11. The Dawgs never trailed in the Hanover game, but Lincoln Memorial clearly brought new things to the table.
Lincoln Memorial got steals in the passing lane and played at a high tempo, utilizing transition offense with the goal of scoring quickly and often. But the Bulldogs adjusted quickly, and with 13:30 left in the half McDermott hit a nice 3 assisted by Baldwin again in transition. We had a ball game on our hands.
Three Bulldogs did most of the scoring for Butler up to this point. With 13:00 left, Martin had 4 pts., Baldwin had 4 pts., and McDermott had 6 pts. as he was subbed out for Henry Baddley.
About a minute and a half later, Baddley showed off his athleticism in a big way. Martin got a steal, and on his left he spotted Baddley making a beeline for the basket. Martin tossed up a lob, Baddley caught it, and laid it in with a smooth touch. We already saw a solid display of chemistry between Baldwin and McDermott earlier, and now Martin and Baddley showed another example of unselfish team basketball.
Then came a small scoring run by Butler. At the 10:45 mark Martin drove to the basket, scored, and was fouled. He converted the and-one free throw which brought his scoring total up to 7. Christian David checked in for Martin after his free throws, but David wouldn’t get much playing time. He finished with 2 minutes and a foul.
Around 10:10 the Dawgs forced a shot clock violation, as LMU jacked up a 3-pointer from several feet behind the arc as the shot clock expired. This may have been Butler’s best defensive possession of the game, as the LMU offense looked completely bewildered.
The two teams continued to battle. Jorgensen showed off his range with two 3-pointers and Thompson cut to the basket for a nice driving layup on another Butler possession. By the 7:30 mark, Butler led 31 – 25. At this point, Wideman got into some foul trouble as a couple of tough calls went against him. Fowler checked in for Wideman. While the Bulldogs maintained their lead, they couldn’t seem to shake the Railsplitters.
At 5:05 left, Butler led 35-27. The starters were on the floor, with the exception of Fowler being in for Wideman. Here are some quick stats for the Bulldogs on the floor at that time:
Baldwin 6 pts 2 reb
Jorgensen 5 pts
Martin 7 pts 3 reb
McDermott 6 pts, 2 of 2 on 3-pointers
Fowler 5 pts 2 reb
7 total assists and 7 team fouls for BU.
Everyone in this Bulldog lineup contributed to some degree, and they distributed touches very evenly.
With 4:00 remaining, Joey Brunk and Baddley checked in for Fowler and Jorgensen. Brunk only played a few minutes but he managed to tally an assist and a foul.
A few minutes passed, and by the 1:00 mark Baddley upped his scoring total to 6 pts on 2 nice baseline drives. Both times he drove to the right of the basket, cut left along the baseline, lept up high and laid it in. Dawgs led 39 – 33.
At halftime it was a 41 – 34 Butler lead. Baldwin finished off the first half with a nice driving layup. He led all scorers with 8 pts, 3 reb, a couple assists, and a pair of steals. Martin (7 pts 6 rebs) was another key player for Butler. Baddley (6 pts) was a surprise performer off the bench, and Fowler did a solid job picking up some extra minutes with Wideman in foul trouble. Lincoln Memorial had fought valiantly, shooting 12 of 26 and but the Bulldogs seemed to do the little things just a bit better. Fouls were definitely a factor that kept LMU in the game, as the Dawgs only got to the free throw line once, shooting 1 of 1, while LMU went several times and shot 6 of 8 on free throws.
All starters were on the floor to start what would be a very high-scoring, fast-paced second half. Very little defense was played by either team as this game unfolded into a shootout.
First possession went to Butler, Martin drew a foul and hit two free throws to bring his scoring total to 9 pts. Lincoln Memorial answered with two free throws of their own.
The Bulldogs and the Railsplitters battled hard, getting quick scores on drives and open shots. The Dawgs were getting to the free throw line significantly more in the second half than they did in the first. Butler led 49 -44 with 16:05 left, as Martin hit two more free throws and pushed his total to 11 pts.
On the next Bulldogs possession, McDermott hit another 3 on the right from a few feet behind the arc. If his performance last season and in these first exhibition games are any sign of the future, he looks to be a true sharpshooter for Butler this year.
With 15:08 remaining, the Dawgs finally extended their lead to double digits, 54-44. Lincoln Memorial called a timeout to regroup. Emmanuel Terry, Cornelius Taylor and Deshawn Patterson really stepped up for the Railsplitters in the second half, but for the most part Butler answered well on offense. However, Terry led all scorers with 16 pts, almost all of them in the paint, and wasn’t slowing down anytime soon. Taylor and Patterson both were draining jumpers consistently.
LMU fought their way back into the game. At the 12:44 mark Terry forced a Butler timeout with another layup drive, which brought him up to 18 pts. Still 58 – 51 Dawgs lead, but he was a real nightmare for Butler to deal with down low.
Dawgs regrouped after the timeout, Martin and Fowler each with 11. Then Martin had a strong dunk to bring it to 62 – 51. On the ensuing Butler possession, Jorgensen missed a 3 on an inbound, but Wideman threw down a powerful putback jam. LMU followed with two 3-pointers to bring it to 64 – 57.
With around 8:35 left to play, Baldwin made a tricky teardrop floater on the right to bring the lead to 66 – 57. Baldwin then lost the ball on a drive but Wideman recovered it and threw down another slam. Wideman came back in a big way from a rough first half.
Lincoln Memorial drummed up a successful final push and with 3:53 remaining they brought it all the way back to a 4-point game, 74 – 70. Butler looked a little lost in transition defense and allowed some quick and easy baskets for LMU, which let them get back in the game. Martin, Fowler, Baldwin, and Wideman were all double digit scorers at this point. McDermott had 9. Martin sunk 2 key free throws to bring it to 76 – 70.
With just under 3:00 to go Terry got to the line on a controversial call and hit 1 of 2 free throws. He had 22 pts. then and finished with 24. Martin answered with 2 free throws of his own, 78 – 71 Bulldogs lead. Butler’s star finished with 19 points, including a perfect 11 of 11 on free throws.
Except for Baldwin’s floater from just inside FT line, the rest of the game mostly came down to free throws. Baldwin’s score brought the Butler lead to 9, 80 – 71. 80 points meant free lemonade for Butler fans after the game. 13 pts for Baldwin, who finished with 17 and shot over 50%.
Finally, at the 26 second mark, Bulldogs rookie Thompson hit a driving and-1 layup, 82 – 74 lead. After this, LMU was forced to intentionally foul.
Butler won this tough exhibition game 86 – 79.
They struggled on defense at times, but for the most part the Bulldogs appeared lively on both sides of the ball and played a complete game. Both teams really played their hearts out, and it’s important to note that Butler weathered a second half storm from Lincoln Memorial in which the Railsplitters shot 6 of 12 (50%) from 3, 15 of 26 (57.69%) total, and 9 of 14 (64.29%) on free throws. That’s a simply incredible showing from a D-II team taking on a D-I team.
In the meantime, Butler had 4 scorers in double digits (Martin, Fowler, Baldwin, and Wideman) and several others just below. To weather the storm, the Bulldogs finally got to the free throw line consistently in the second half, converting on 15 of 19 (78.95%) free throws. Butler also shot 2 of 5 (40%) from 3 and 14 of 25 (56%) total in the half. Final box scores for both teams are here.
Overall, this was a surprising game that was handled well by the Bulldogs. The regular season starts this Friday night at home against Kennesaw State – this time it counts!