Butler vs. Princeton: 5 takeaways from the Bulldog win

Butler University men's basketball caoch LaVall Jordan, left, and Bulldog freshman guard Aaron Thompson listen to a question from the media following a game against Princeton Sunday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)

Butler University men's basketball caoch LaVall Jordan, left, and Bulldog freshman guard Aaron Thompson listen to a question from the media following a game against Princeton Sunday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)

INDIANAPOLIS – The Butler University men’s basketball squad improved to 2-0 under first-year coach LaVall Jordan by pulling away late from a challenging Princeton team 85-75 in front of 8,470 fans at Hinkle Fieldhouse Sunday.

Here are five takeaways from the Bulldog victory.

EMERGING STAR

The Butler fan base went ga-ga a year ago when then-freshman guard Kamar Baldwin hit a game-winning jumper to finish with 11 points against an NCAA Tournament-caliber team in Northwestern in just his second game of his Butler career.

Prepare to get excited yet again, Bulldog Nation.

Freshman guard Aaron Thompson scored 15 points Sunday and many were on blow-by-you drives to the rack.

“I love coaching Aaron Thompson,” Jordan said. “He is smart as a whip. He’s a great teammate, the locker room loves him.”

So will the rest of Hinkle Fieldhouse if he continues to play as well as he did Sunday.

The 6-foot-2 guard was called upon quickly when starting guard Paul Jorgensen picked up his second foul in the first half and he played seamlessly in the backcourt with Baldwin.

“(Thompson) is picking things up, especially defensively,” Jordan said. “That is how he is earning his way onto the court.”

Thompson totaled 31 minutes and finished with four rebounds, two assists and just two turnovers, despite handling the ball a lot.

“He has a good sense as a lead guard,” Jordan said. “He has always done that. Now he is finishing at a high clip and he hit his free throws tonight.”

Thompson isn’t a great shooter, as much as he is a great scorer, but he hit 5 of 7 free throws and only missed one shot attempt.

VETERAN STRONG

As a junior, it took senior forward Kelan Martin six games to grab 23 total rebounds to open the 2016-17 season, but he has already done so in two games this season after grabbing a game-best 14 Sunday.

“I was really proud of (Martin),” Jordan said. “He had 14 rebounds, led us in assists (three), he has grown as a player. He is a more complete player.”

Martin battled foul problems (he finished with four), but he still was on the court for a team-high 37 minutes and grabbed nine of his rebounds and scored 16 of his points in the second half when the Tigers were cutting into the Butler lead.

“We know (Martin) can score,” Jordan said, “but he is really engaged in improving his game.”

Martin played in 34 games a year ago, but only totaled three or more assists on two occasions and the same could be said of grabbing double-figure rebounds.

On Monday, Martin was named as the Big East Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week.

FAN-FRIENDLY

After opening the home schedule with an 18-point win over Kennesaw State, the Hinkle Fieldhouse faithful got their money’s worth Sunday with the scheduling of a very good Princeton team that may indeed make another appearance in the NCAA Tournament next March.

Jordan said he “embraces them all,” when asked about scheduling tough games.

In the future, Jordan probably won’t schedule a Princeton-level team on one day’s rest again, as Butler did Sunday, but the coach said that he wants challenging tests in the non-Big East portion of his schedule to prepare his team for what is coming down the road.

“We set the schedule up so that we test ourselves,” Jordan said. “There is no question.”

Butler immediately has another tough game Wednesday at Maryland, which is part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, while Jordan’s team will also face Texas, possibly Duke, Saint Louis, Utah, Purdue, as well as a Furman squad that is coming off of a 23-win season a year ago.

“The goal is to challenge ourselves,” Jordan explained, “so when Big East play comes around, we can compete for a Big East championship. We love having (good) opponents on our schedule, our fans love having really good home games, especially.”

TO THE RACK!

Butler used its quickness advantage to continually drive the ball against the Princeton defense, and veteran Tiger coach Mitch Henderson didn’t feel there was anything his team could do to stop that.

“We struggled, a lot, guarding them,” Henderson said. “They got tons of penetration. Baldwin is fast. Thompson is very fast, and Martin is a very difficult match-up.”

“I thought they got points in the paint, at will.”

The Bulldogs held a 50-26 advantage in that statistic, as Baldwin, Thompson, Martin and forward Sean McDermott beat their defenders to the basket repeatedly.

“We did a good job of attacking the paint,” Jordan said, “that became the game.”

BRUNK ON BENCH

It was interesting to note that despite starting center Tyler Wideman and back-up Nate Fowler limited by foul trouble (both players had four each), that Jordan never inserted redshirt freshman post Joey Brunk into the game. However, following the game, the coach explained his strategy behind that decision.

“Their bigs were able to step out and shoot from the perimeter,” Jordan said. “That was probably the main thing. There is more experience with Tyler and Nate in guarding out there, because they had guys that you had to get to, and they can drive it, so you had to move your feet and keep them in front.”

“It was more of a match-up thing.”

Brunk did play five minutes Friday against Kennesaw State and was productive with six points and four rebounds.

In each of the past two seasons, Butler has redshirted a player (McDermott two years ago and Brunk last year), but Jordan said none of the three scholarship freshman (Thompson or wings Jerald Gillens-Butler and Christian David) will redshirt this season.

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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