No. 24 Butler is doing plenty of winning, but apparently not a lot of talking about winning. Instead, they’re focused on continuing to win.
“We haven’t talked about winning,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said Wednesday on “The Dan Dakich Show.” “Obviously, that’s the goal. We’ve just been talking about getting better and opportunities to prove who we are to each other.”
The Bulldogs (8-0) will get another chance to do that Saturday, when unranked Florida (6-2) makes its first visit to Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, where Butler has won its last 55 non-conference games.
Butler is coming off wins against Stanford (68-67) in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 26 and Mississippi (67-58) on the road Tuesday.
Kamar Baldwin leads the Bulldogs with 17.5 points per game. The senior guard spent the offseason tweaking his shooting form, with his elbow under the ball and the ball over his head, not behind it.
“He was just so committed to making the adjustment,” Jordan said. “It takes a lot of time to feel comfortable to be able to execute and do it in a game.”
Butler’s starters sport a lot of experience. Redshirt junior forward Bryce Nze (12.1 points per game, 7.5 rebounds), redshirt senior forward Sean McDermott (10.4 ppg. 4.9 rpg.) and junior guard Aaron Thompson (6.1 ppg., 6.0 assists,) are joined by sophomore forward Bryce Golden (8.9 ppg., 4.3 rpg.)
The Bulldogs are scoring 71.1 points per game while allowing 55.5. They’re shooting 49.3 percent overall and 35.9 from 3-point range while holding opponents to 40.6 percent shooting and 27.1 percent from long distance.
Butler also is committing fewer than 10 turnovers per game and outrebounding opponents by a 33.1 to 27.5 average.
While the Bulldogs boast a largely veteran lineup, the Gators are primarily a young team with graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. also learning to fit in.
Florida, ranked sixth in the preseason AP Top 25, dropped out of the rankings this week despite riding a four-game winning streak. The Gators are coming off a 73-67 home victory against Marshall last Friday.
Florida lost to Florida State and Connecticut earlier this season before defeating then-No. 18 Xavier to win the Charleston Classic on Nov. 24.
Coach Mike White said his team had been in “this funk” since winning at Charleston up until the middle of this week.
“(Wednesday) was the best practice we’ve had in a while,” White told reporters on Thursday. “Young team. Freshmen. Exams. Coming off their first taste of success. A lot of factors involved.”
What changed Wednesday?
“Probably the fact we bring up Butler for the first time,” White said. “Our guys understanding the level of program and team and how difficult a challenge Saturday’s going to be.”
Sophomore Keyontae Johnson (13.0 ppg., 6.4 rpg.) and fellow forward Blackshear Jr. (12.9 ppg., 8.9 rpg.) lead the Gators attack, with sophomore guard Andrew Nembhard averaging 10.0 points and 5.3 assists.
Freshmen guards Scottie Lewis (8.5 ppg.), Tre Mann (4.8 ppg.) and Ques Glover (5.3 ppg.), along with freshman forward Omar Payne (3.9 ppg.) and sophomore Noah Locke (8.4 ppg.) are averaging double-digit minutes.
The Gators have been scoring 67.6 ppg while surrendering 62.0.
–Field Level Media