It was a wild one to finish off the PK80 consolation bracket between the Butler Bulldogs and the Buckeyes of Ohio State.
Before the game even started there was a big story regarding the two coaches of the teams. Chris Holtmann (who is the head coach of the Buckeyes) coached Butler for the last three seasons, leading them to at least one win in the NCAA tournament every year, and last year even going to the Sweet 16. The Dawgs fell short against the eventual champion, UNC Tar Heels.
Holtmann left earlier this year to take the Ohio State job, which gave Lavall Jordan the opportunity to coach his Alma Mater where he also played in the late 90’s as one of the best players in Dawgs’ history. Going into the game the importance to win for each coach was analyzed and discussed but both coaches did not let the media get to them. For them it was just another game.
Despite all of the media attention towards the coaches, there was still a game to be played. and boy would this be an entertaining one. The first half was very competitive. Both teams played at even strength through their respective offenses. Similar to the Thursday night game between Butler and Texas, scoring was few and far between in the first half. The score at the break being 24 to 21 in favor of Ohio State.
Butler edged their opponent in the turnover battle, as they have done all year. However, those turnovers did not necessarily lead to scoring. It was a scrappy first half and you could tell both teams wanted this win for their respective coaches.
The second half was something that as a Butler fan you wish you wouldn’t have to see that often. The Dawgs were struggling on offense and could get shots to fall. Offense is still a problem area as the Dawgs’ shot under 40% as a team from the floor. Especially from beyond the arc, Butler has to get better than the 19% they shot today. Most of this is to blame on bad shot selections and trying to force difficult shots when there were better options. The Buckeyes shot 46% from the field and were the much better team for a long time, jumping out to a 15 point lead. Free throw shooting was another issue today for Butler, they shot only 55%, which isn’t that great for a team that prides itself on the ability to make free throws.
Though OSU was in control for a long time in the second half, their momentum fell off, losing a 15 point lead with 5 minutes to go. Kamar Baldwin hit the game-tying 3 pointer with 16 seconds left, bringing the game to 59-59 after a pair of free throws from Nate Fowler and a three by Kelan Martin with 1:31 to go. Martin would also make the game winning layup with 3.8 seconds to go in OT.
Martin finished with 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals. He undoubtedly was the player of the game and hero for the Dawgs. Kamar Baldwin chipped in with 14 points and 4 assists which included the game-tying three pointer towards the end of regulation.
There still remain many questions about Butler, even after this huge win. The offense needs to be better, more efficient from the arc, and improve free throw shooting. Shot selection is probably the biggest issue thus far in the young season. Also, Butler is getting in too much foul trouble with Tyler Wideman and Aaron Thompson both fouling out in today’s thriller. Thus, the Bulldogs rallied to win this huge game and showed both heart and resilience which is definitely a big positive.
Next, the Dawgs will take on the Saint Louis University Billikens at Hinkle, on Saturday, December 2. First tip is scheduled for 2 p.m.