INDIANAPOLIS – Recently-hired Butler men's basketball coach LaVall Jordan has a massive amount of respect for all that the Bulldog program has achieved throughout its storied history. After all, he was a part of adding several pages to that lore. But on a micro-level, he also spoke recently of being “respectful” of the current Bulldog players and what they accomplished before his arrival earlier this summer.
“I've tried to be respectful of the fact that there are some guys on our roster that have accomplished a few things,” Jordan said.
He specifically cited seniors Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman and their having advanced to three NCAA Tournaments already in their careers.
Following the Bulldogs' performance on the court Friday, that level of respect probably will increase significantly.
Butler rallied in the fourth quarter behind stellar offense from Martin to knock off the Madrid All-Stars 84-80 in the first game of a 10-day, four-game trip to Spain, and Martin and Wideman each played big roles in the victory.
“I enjoyed just being tested against someone else,” Jordan told Butlersports.com of beating the team of professional players. “We've been practicing and you are going against each other. We have been trying to figure out whether we're playing good defense or bad offense or vice-versa.”
On Friday, Butler did a little of both at varying times.
Madrid jumped out to a 26-17 lead in the opening quarter, as the Bulldog players had to adjust to such international rules such as not moving a foot on a drive until the ball hit the floor.
The Bulldogs had 17 turnovers in the game, but 12 were committed in the opening period.
“We made some adjustments,” Jordan said. “The rules were a big adjustment. But overall, I thought our guys did really well.”
Butler opened the second quarter on a 17-0 run, but still trailed Madrid 44-42 at halftime, as well as 59-52 early in the fourth quarter. However, Martin began to heat up, both literally and figuratively.
The game was played in the non-air-conditioned Pabellon Javi Limones, with the temperatures nearing 100 degrees. But that didn't keep Martin from leading his team on a closing 32-21 run to win the game.
Martin hit 10 of 18 shots en route to a team-high 26 points, but was especially hot in the final period, as he scored 11 points during the decisive run.
As good as the offense was clicking; Jordan liked what he saw from his players defensively.
“Late game, I thought that our defensive energy picked up,” Jordan said.
Butler hit 12 of its first 14 shots to open the final period, as sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin totaled eight points during the stretch.
Baldwin finished with 13 points, but also dished out seven assists, grabbed five rebounds and made four steals.
Since Jordan was hired in June, Baldwin has been focused on expanding his game and role with the team, including playing both guard spots.
“Kamar made really good decisions, late, when we put the ball in his hands,” Jordan said.
Jordan was happy with Baldwin's play Friday, but he's been even more ecstatic with his demeanor and attitude throughout the summer workouts and practices leading up to this trip.
“The biggest thing that I've seen from Kamar Baldwin is that he is unbelievably coachable,” Jordan said prior to the overseas trip. “He makes great eye contact. He has a great response, whether you are coaching him on something or getting on him, or holding him accountable to something. That is a dream for a coach to have that in a young person. To look you in the eye and believe in what you are saying and then try to apply what you are communicating.”
Martin and Baldwin were effective in Friday's win, but so were several other Butler players.
Freshmen Christian David and Aaron Thompson played roles in the fourth quarter run to help seal the win, while Wideman chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds.
Redshirt sophomore Sean McDermott hit four 3-pointers in the opening half and finished with 12 points, while junior center Nate Fowler nearly totaled a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds.
“It was really good to get out and all be on the same team for the first time,” Jordan said Friday, “and go against some outside competition. I thought our guys did really well.”
Butler will play Sunday against Albacete at the Albacete Basketball Club at 6 a.m. (Eastern).
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