Photo Credit: Mick Lite
Chaifetz was hyped from the hardwood to the rafters as the starting 5 were introduced. The pyro techniques, the music, the intros, all on point. Barely an empty seat to be had. Why? The Butler Bulldogs made the trip from the crossroads of America to our fine city… and I’m sure the fact that it was 65 degrees in December didn’t hurt.
The folks in the blue seats were not let down. The intensity of the crowd was matched only by that of the play. Physical, fast paced, and defense fueled hoops was the only thing on the menu. The usual issues plagued the Billikens. 28% from 3, 50% from the line, and 9 turns in the first half. Yet, timely shooting, stellar defense, and pure relentlessness sent them to the locker room up 30-24.
Freshman Carte’Are Gordon continued to grow and assert himself offensively. At half he had 7 points on 3-5 shooting including his first triple of 2018. The only thing seemingly keeping Butler in the game was the onslaught from range by Sean McDermott who went 4-6 while the other Bulldogs went 0-8.
Could they clean it up? Would let down? In a couple words…absolutely not.
Jordan Goodwin started the second half on a mission of offensive onslaught and non-stop movement. SLU was determined to dominate the offensive boards. French had a tip in of his own as the lead grew to 10 with 4 gone in the 2nd frame.
Butler tried to make their run. But the Bills D was on point. Fred Thatch and Javon Bess were men possessed. How dehydration did not set in on both down the stretch, I have no clue. Bess caught fire for a few minutes on offensive with some clutch pull ups and a 25 foot dagger with the shot clock expiring.
But, you couldn’t help but feel a Butler run coming right. They’re so seasoned. They’re always in the tourney…they beat SLU by 30 last year. 30.
And yet, that run never came. Butler kept fouling and Tramaine Isabelle kept sinking throws. Bess sank a couple…then Gordon hit 1 of 2…and then Bess headed back to line with 17 seconds left after a block and steal by Jordan Goodwin. He sank them both to put SLU up by 12 and close it out with the biggest win of the Travis Ford era.
Once again, it was ugly, but man, that was the prettiest ugly I’ve seen in a long while. Yeah, they can address the 19 turnovers in practice and film sessions. But for now they can revel in a win over a quality opponent and a 6-1 record to start December. Up next they head to Southern Illinois to take on an always tough Salukis. Then tilts against Oregon St. and Houston over the next couple weeks.
Will they ever clean up the turnovers? Will they value each and every possession as they should to truly make noise in the spring? We have a few months to find out…
Until then…long live the ugly that is ohhh so pretty.