The Butler Bulldogs defended homecourt and knocked off the pesky DePaul Blue Demons 78-70. Led by Eric Hunter Jr.’s best game of the season, where he had 23 points and 5 rebounds, Butler was able to hold a safe lead for most of the second half.
I never fail at having the most flattering opening images. My gawd that guy is GORGEOUS
But rather than going with a traditional inverted pyramid-style recap, I want to set the scene a bit. Because in my little video post-recap thing that I like to do (I can say a whole lot more words than type and don’t have to edit, and I like to talk and yell at nothing, and you can see the emotions and whatnot), there was something I forgot to include, that I really think fundamentally changed this game.
Early on, this game was ugly. Like really ugly. But, I was enjoying some Steve Lappas on commentary.
I stand by this take btw, Lappas adds great commentary to these games and I think does an excellent job.
But man, oh man, Butler was settling for some bad mid-range jumpers. They loooove those 15-18 footers that are contested and it’s exactly what got them in trouble in their first three games.
However, DePaul decided to join Butler in some pretty atrocious shot selection.
DePaul’s shot selection allowed Butler to get some good offense off of their defense and take a nine-point lead at halftime. It was a very weird half, but a lead is a lead. I thought Butler was able to control the end of this half, and I thought they’d gain some momentum in the second half.
Oh man, I was so wrong. DePaul started both the first and second halves very well. This second half DePaul sped up this game, took Butler out of any sort of rhythm they had just before the half, and built some legit momentum. Butler now only had a three-point lead, forcing Thad Matta to call a timeout.
Or, so I thought. For some reason, Coach Stubblefield used his third timeout right before the U16 media timeout, with his team having all of the momentum.
After this run, there was no point where I thought DePaul was going to come back and win this game. Butler extended their lead to five, before the next media timeout, where Butler was able to calm this game down, gain momentum and slowly grow their lead.
This timeout completely changed this game. I really think this was the game. I don’t know why Stubbs called this timeout, maybe there was an adjustment he saw, but I just don’t think it paid off.
Butler slowly increased their lead and aside from a very late 9-0 run from Philmon Gebrewhit, this game was never that close.
Man, Eric Hunter Jr was absolutely spectacular. Butler needs him to step up, and he had the best game of his Bulldog career tonight. He was the guy given the Javan Johnson assignment, and did very well, limiting him to just eight points. He was Butler’s leader offensively, putting up 23 points on 8/13 shooting and 3/5 from three.
He scored more points in this game than he had in any game in his college career, reached the 1,000 points mark for his career and more than doubled his Big East scoring totals. Not too bad!
I mentioned in the preview article I did, that Butler needed to limit both Umoja Gibson and Javan Johnson, and that they did. In games where Johnson scores 20+ points, DePaul is 6-0. For Gibson, it’s 4-0. Gibson led the Blue Demons with 16 points, though five of those 16 came in the last 36 seconds when the game was just about over. Johnson had an off-shooting night and put up eight points, only his second game this season not reaching double figures.
For DePaul, I thought Yor Anei looked really good in his minutes. Anei is coming back from injury, but against a big man like Manny Bates, he really looked like he belonged out there. In his 24 minutes, Anei had an efficient 14 points and three blocks. He’s just getting back into the swing of live game action, but this is his season-high in points, and actually the most points he’s scored since 1/11/22 against Marquette.
Da’Sean Nelson continues to be an enigma to me. His energy completely changes the game and it really kept DePaul in this game, tonight. He was out-hustling and out-toughing the Bulldogs tonight. Other times, he was taking some head-scratching shots and making some pretty fundamental mistakes. Overall though, I thought he played a very solid game, and if he’s bringing this energy to this team, I’ll take a couple of bad shots and mistakes, with no hesitation. His 14 points and six rebounds off the bench were huge in keeping the Blue Demons in this game.
So, in the end, Butler was able to fend off a late DePaul run, and win 78-70. Butler’s next game is Saturday when they travel to Seton Hall, meanwhile, DePaul gets a bit of a break, as they’re off until next Tuesday when they take on Villanova, in Wintrust Arena.