After an intense game, Butler Basketball is heading to the Sweet 16. Butler defeated the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 74-65 and will play the winner of the North Carolina and Arkansas matchup. While Middle Tennessee gave the Bulldogs their best shot, Butler was able to hold on and secure the win.
Butler had its hands full with the larger Blue Raiders but the Bulldogs provided tough defense playing both a man-to-man and a zone defense. The Bulldogs forced 12 turnovers and also forced Middle Tennessee to shoot 4-19 from the three point line.
The Bulldogs continued to shoot the three ball well as they shot 8-15 from the three point line. Junior Kelan Martin led the team with 19 points on 6-9 shooting including 3-6 from downtown. Avery Woodson, Martin, and Kamar Baldwin all hit multiple threes which helped the Bulldogs greatly. At one point the Bulldogs led by 13 with 4:28 to play in the first half. But the Blue Raiders went on a 9-1 run to make it 36-31 before half time. For the second straight game, the Bulldogs had a scoring drought that allowed their opponents to get back into the game. However, in both games, Butler was able to respond with a run of their own.
Butler must have worked on their free throws before the game as they shot much better from the charity stripe than they did against Winthrop. In their victory over Winthrop, Butler shot 20-30 from the line but against Middle Tennessee, the Bulldogs shot 18-23 from the charity stripe. Many of those free throws were important as they made 11-13 free throws in the final four minutes of the game. Again ball movement was a key for the Bulldogs as they had 16 total assists.
The Bulldogs will need to continue to play strong defense against whoever they face in the Sweet 16. Their offense should be fine as long as they continue to move the ball well and hit their open three-pointers. If Kelan Martin can build off the success of this game, he can give Butler a big time scoring threat. With the leadership on the team, Butler should be able to put themselves in a position to win their next game.