Butler ends 3-game losing streak with fast start and 63% shooting to beat Chaminade

David Woods
Indianapolis Star

LAS VEGAS – Butler came to college basketball’s Maui Invitational without its top rebounder, started this game without its top scorer and ended it without its top playmaker.

Next-man-up is a trendy slogan in sports, but the Bulldogs are overdoing it.

But if they were low on players, they were high on energy. Never mind that the opponent was host Chaminade, an NCAA Division II school from Hawaii. The Silverswords played evenly in the first half of losses to Oregon and Notre Dame, and for them to be 20-point underdogs seemed like Las Vegas was overdoing it.

“They came out fired up, hungry. You could tell right from the start that they were here to play tonight,” Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird said. “They didn’t just coast into this game.”

The Bulldogs burst ahead 18-2, featuring six points and two dunks by Ty Groce, and went on to an 84-51 victory Wednesday night in the seventh-place game at Michelob Ultra Arena.

After three straight losses, the Bulldogs (4-3) were in no position to coast against anyone. Not after slogging through games of 52, 52 and 50 points. Against Chaminade, they had 51 soon after halftime.

If not for the 85-53 win over Central Arkansas on Nov. 12, the 84 points would have been the most scored in regulation 40 minutes by Butler in 33 months -- since Feb. 16, 2019.

Turnovers remain an issue – 14 on 63 possessions are too many – but the Bulldogs were crisp otherwise. They shot 63% from the field, made 9-of-18 on 3-pointers and 89.5% on free throws. They had a 38-20 edge in the paint over Chaminade (2-3).

Jayden Taylor (21), Groce (18), Bryce Golden (16) and DJ Hughes (six) all scored season highs. And Jair Bolden, starting in place of injured Chuck Harris, had this line: 12 points, three 3s, five rebounds, six assists, three steals.

Chaminade shot 30%, starting the first half 1-of-8 and second half 0-of-8. But the Silverswords kept coming at Butler, grabbing 22 offensive rebounds

Butler’s starters outscored Chaminade’s 67-27.

Yes, we hear you say, it was Chaminade. Yet it was progress.

“Everyone’s good across the country, no matter where they play, what division they’re in,” Golden said. “Everyone’s good, and everyone’s got good players. And they’re going to make you make a choice, day in and day out.”

Golden conceded the Bulldogs were “a little timid” in losses here to No. 12 Houston and Texas A&M. He said the difference started before tipoff, from pregame focus to walk-through.

“The first day, we came out, we got punched in the mouth, and we didn’t really have any energy to respond to that,” he said. “The next day, it got a little bit better at it.

“I think that’s what’s good about this tournament, three games in three days. You can grow up fast in things like this. I think that’s what we did.”

Golden’s 16 points were nearly as many as he had scored in the first six games combined (23). He said he “hadn’t really even thought about that.” On one play, he dribbled half the length of the floor and scored on a reverse layup in a display of his skill rarely seen.

Groce showed the Silverswords things they had not seen. His 18 points came on 8-of-9 shooting in 20 minutes, featuring four dunks and two 3s. Bovaird said they thought he was mostly a shooter.

“The next thing I know, he was shot-faking and driving all the way and caught us in the post a couple of times,” Bovaird said. “He’s much more versatile than I thought. His size was impressive in person. He didn’t look that big on film.”

Butler has been without injured Bo Hodges and Myles Tate all season, and then lost Bryce Nze before this tournament. Harris was withheld because of inflammation his foot, and point guard Aaron Thompson exited with 12 minutes left after being involved in two collisions a few seconds apart. Jordan said Thompson had a cut but should be OK.

Near the end, freshmen Hughes and Simas Lukosius collided, leaving Lukosius with a facial cut that will require stitches. Jordan also revealed Lukosius, who missed Monday’s game against Houston, had been ill.

Butler next plays another Division II opponent, Saginaw Valley State, on Tuesday at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at david.woods@indystarcom. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.