Butler vs. Portland State: 5 takeaways from the Bulldog win
As fanatical as it may seem, there was actually some scuttlebutt on social media following Butler’s loss to Texas Thursday in the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Ore. regarding the level of displeasure with first-year coach LaVall Jordan and his job performance thus far.
The Bulldogs had fallen to 3-2 with that loss and some fans simply didn’t like how this squad was playing.
However, the “Butler Way” was evident and prevalent less than 24 hours later, as the Bulldogs got good play in a multitude of ways to beat a difficult and athletic Portland State squad 71-69 Friday.
The victory advances the Bulldogs (4-2) to a Sunday match-up with the winner of the Stanford-Ohio State game at 3 p.m.
Here were five takeaways from the Butler victory.
TOUGHNESS NEVER GRADUATES
For the cynics that thought smart play and toughness walked out of Hinkle Fieldhouse with the departure of Barry Collier… Thad Matta… Todd Lickliter… Brad Stevens… Brandon Miller… Chris Holtmann… well, you were wrong.
Jordan’s team made a large number of critical plays in the second half, including a strong defensive possession with the game hanging in the balance in the final seconds to earn this victory over a good Portland State team.
The Bulldogs faced length and athleticism from several of Portland’s players, yet, Butler outrebounded its opponent 33-32 and only turned the ball over 13 times despite being pressured defensively the length of the court for a large portion of this game.
All of the traits that Bulldog Nation has grown to love were exhibited by this team, which by the way, is playing five players in either brand new roles or far more significant roles this year.
PICK YOUR POINT (GUARD)
Jordan has flip-flopped freshman guard Aaron Thompson and redshirt junior Paul Jorgensen in the starting lineup over the six games this season, with Thompson starting the last three games and Jorgensen the initial three.
Both have shown positive and negative play at times, but since being benched, Jorgensen has outplayed Thompson and he certainly did so again Friday.
Jorgensen knocked down half of his eight shots against Portland to finish with 14 points, but his value extended to other areas of play, as well.
Despite being just 6-foot-1, he pulled down five rebounds (including several in the late stretch of this close game), as well as dished out five assists.
For the season, Jorgensen has passed for 14 assists, while turning the ball over just twice.
Both players are shooting comparable percentages from the field (45 percent for Jorgensen to 42.8 for Thompson), and Thompson has passed for 24 assists. However, the youngster has also committed 12 turnovers and he is of little threat from either 3-point range (none for the season compared to Jorgensen’s 8 of 23) or free throw line (Thompson has missed 8 of his 19 free throws, while Jorgensen has sunk 9 of 11).
Despite being outplayed, Thompson has logged 18 more minutes total than Jorgensen in the past three games and an average of six more per game all season.
BENCH IS MIXED BUNCH
There are a couple of ways to view the bench play of Butler in its latest win.
Certainly the production of Jorgensen and junior center Nate Fowler (seven points in 13 minutes), as well as the four-minute burst that freshman forward Christian David supplied helped lead to the team’s success. However, with the questionable status of redshirt sophomore Sean McDermott (he injured his right ankle after 18 minutes of play and never returned) will make a short bench even shorter.
Jordan will probably move David into the starting lineup if McDermott can’t go Sunday, because moving Jorgensen there leaves the Bulldogs no guards to bring off the bench aside from the ineffective (so far) sophomore Henry Baddley, which also explains why David should be moved into the lineup before Baddley.
However, Baddley probably brings a better defensive presence than David at this stage of their careers.
Redshirt freshman Joey Brunk has barely been used and first-year forward Jerald Gillens-Butler can say the same.
McDermott’s absence leaves Jordan with an eight-man rotation, with one of those players (Baddley) yet to show any offensive effectiveness.
WHERE’S JIMMY CHITWOOD?
The potential loss of McDermott adds to another area of concern, as a poor 3-point shooting team gets even worse if its leading shooter (McDermott has hit a team-best 11 3’s) can’t play.
The Bulldogs have connected on just 31.2 percent of their long shots – and that is WITH McDermott in the lineup.
Increased minutes for Thompson and Baddley or increased shot taking from senior Kelan Martin (22 percent from 3 so far this year) won’t help this team in any way.
Martin has to get on track from long range, while McDermott needs to get healthy, and Fowler probably should see an increase in minutes because he is a threat from the perimeter. However, that last point is hard because…
Butler senior center Tyler Wideman struggled mightily against Texas, but so did every other Bulldog player against the size and length of the Longhorns. However, dismiss that game and Wideman is having a fantastic final season so far.
In Friday’s win, he made 9 of 10 shots and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds to go with a couple of blocks in 25 minutes.
The big man was also very effective in transition, as he ran the floor well and caught a couple of late passes for baskets to help seal the win.
Fowler has been very effective offensively off the bench, but Wideman has been so good that it is making increasing Fowler’s time or giving Brunk a look a very difficult thing for Jordan to do.
Wideman is shooting 69 percent from the field this season and is also averaging a career-best in points (11 per game) and rebounds (4.8 per game).
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