The 10th-seeded Bulldogs' grittiness will be tested at 3:10 p.m. today in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Little Caesars Arena, when they face an Arkansas team that plays an aggressive pressure defense and forces 14 turnovers per game.
The victor of the game most likely gets 2-seed Purdue in the second round. And though he is only in his first season as the Bulldog coach, LaVall Jordan has been around the game long enough to know full well what to expect from an Arkansas squad.
Prior to Friday's game, the Bulldogs beat the Razorbacks 37-21 on January 2, 1931 in Indianapolis in the teams' only other meeting.
Senior forward Kelan Martin led the Bulldogs with 27 points and nine rebounds. Baldwin wasn't far behind, dropping 24 points on nine-of-17 from the field.
Four players are averaging at least 9.6 points per game for Arkansas, they are Jaylen Barford (18.0), Daryl Macon (16.9), Daniel Gafford (11.9) and Anton Beard (9.6).
"Unfinished business" was a theme for the Razorbacks this season - especially the team's five seniors - after losing to eventual national champion North Carolina in last year's NCAA Tournament second round.
The Bulldogs are now 11-1 in NCAA tournament openers dating back to 2001 with their lone loss coming to LSU in 2009. The 6-foot-11 Gafford is a two-way star, shooting almost 62 percent from the field on offense and averaging more than two blocks on defense.
"They do a good job in their motion offense, setting screens, but I thought our guys did a good job chasing them". The Dawgs also showed just how risky this team can be when both Martin and Baldwin are firing on all cylinders. In particular, freshman forward Darious Hall was a bright spot.
"Butler did good tonight by making tough shots, getting rebounds, getting key stops", said Barford, who led Arkansas with 15 points. "I told them we have to compete better in practice". That's the bright lights, big stage, so we shouldn't be shy going up to Detroit for that match-up. "It always fun to start off a game like that, and we just tried to keep it going throughout the game".
Anderson is 6-3 in openers, including 2-1 with the Razorbacks. We have to make them uncomfortable.
The first half featured big runs by both teams.
"That first game, you never know how they're going to come out", Anderson said. Well, that's where we come in. You've got to try to speed them up, but they kind of want to be sped up.
The Razorbacks heated up and the Bulldogs cooled off. Arkansas was 3-for-10 on 3-pointers in the first half and 4-of-18 overall. I thought guys did a good job chasing them. They found a way to get it done and that's all that matters in the end.
Redshirt junior guard Paul Jorgensen said it didn't surprise him Butler was able to regain its composure and put the game away in the second half. "We'll have to respond in the moment, but I believe that's a big part of the game".
But believe it or not, the defense won this game for Butler, holding Arkansas' two all-conference guards for a combined 27 points.
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