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No. 17 Butler relies on strong defense to stifle Purdue

Crossroads Classic

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 21: Kamar Baldwin #3 of the Butler Bulldogs passes the ball against the Purdue Boilermakers during the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 21, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Butler forward Bryce Golden started throwing his weight around early Saturday.

His teammates gladly jumped on board.

Golden scored 14 points and set the tone defensively Saturday, helping No. 17 Butler get past Purdue 70-61 in the second game of the Crossroads Classic.

“I thought Bryce set the tone, just being physical without fouling and walling him off around the basket,” Bulldogs coach LaVall Jordan said. “Then he (Trevion Williams) throws it up and it’s hard to get him (Golden) off. He’s got a good feel for where the ball is going to go.”

Golden has quickly emerged as a physical force this season for Butler.

After logging just 90 minutes last season, the 6-foot-9, 245-pound has started every game this season and seems to be getting better by the game.

And though his stat line didn’t jump out -- 5 of 9 from the field, two rebounds and two assists -- Golden continued making plays.

“I’m always ready as a secondary receiver,” Golden said. “They did a good job finding me today. All the guys coming off ball screens recognized that Purdue was up pretty hard (defensively), so I was ready to be the secondary receiver.”

The Bulldogs (11-1) have won two straight since losing at No. 11 Baylor.

Williams led Purdue (7-5) with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Boilermakers have lost two of their last three games and two straight in this event, which brings Indiana’s four best-known programs to Indianapolis for a December doubleheader.

Indiana beat Notre Dame 62-60 in the opener.

But with two of the nation’s top six scoring defenses going toe to toe, of course, it turned into a grind.

Butler rebounded from a slow start by tying the score at 19 on Christian David’s dunk with 6:15 left in the first half, then pulled out to a 26-21 halftime lead.

So when the Bulldogs opened the second half on a 14-5 spurt to make it 40-26, it looked like they would pull away.

Instead, Purdue charged back late. Williams’ 5-foot jumper cut the deficit to 60-55 with 2:04 left and the Boilermakers were within four in the final minute.

Butler sealed the win by making its last eight free throws.

“You’re going to have some games where you struggle shooting the ball from the perimeter,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “But when you get the ball to the rim and you miss layups, especially against a team without a shot-blocker... Our concentration level has got to be better and that’s what we’ve got to work on.”


Butler: Defensively, these Bulldogs really have some bite. They’ve already held six teams to fewer than 55 points and probably would have made it seven if not for the continual parade to the free-throw line over the last 10 minutes. If they continue to play this well in Big East play, there’s no ceiling for Butler.

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ offense has struggled mightily over the past few weeks and it happened again Saturday. Purdue actually shot better from 3-point range (3 of 9) than it did inside the arc (3 of 19) in the first half. Yes, they’re gritty but they need to find more consistent scoring options before conference play begins.


Butler: The victory margin was the school’s largest in the nine-year history of the Classic. ... The Bulldogs are 12-5 all-time at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. ... Aaron Thompson and Jordan Tucker each scored 12 points. Thompson also had six assists. ... Sean McDermott finished with 11 points and five rebounds. ... Butler was 7 of 19 on 3s and 21 of 32 from the free-throw line.

Purdue: Starting center Matt Haarms missed his second straight game with concussion-like symptoms. ... Williams also had four steals. ... Aaron Wheeler had 11 points and Eric Hunter Jr. had 10. Both fouled out in the closing minutes. ... The Boilermakers shot 33.3% from the field and wound up 9 of 20 on 3s. ... Purdue only made one more 2-pointer (10) than it did from beyond the arc.


Butler: “I think we just trusted our offense a little bit more and tried to focus on defense so we could focus on the defensive end and then get stops,” Thompson said. “We knew if we made them guard for longer it would be tougher for them to keep up with the pace of our cuts.”

Purdue: “Collectively, we’re not a mature group, we’re just not,” Painter said. “We’re mature people, but we’re not a mature basketball team yet. We’ve got to do a better job of being connected. We’ve got to do a better job of just being consistent.”


Butler closes out its nonconference schedule Dec. 28 at home against Louisiana Monroe.

Purdue plays its first home game in nearly three weeks against Central Michigan on Dec. 28.