When it comes to matters of science, I guess that I am a rather simple man. Whenever I had to fulfill a science requirement in school, I always sought (in vain) the easiest potential course. Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics - I tried them all, struggling to maintain focus during lectures, and having only a minimal degree of competence in the required lab work. I am concerned about the environment and I think I do my tiny part to try to pass along a livable planet to future generations, but I don't really understand the validity of the arguments on either side of the global warming debate. I've tried to read about the greenhouse effect, but invariably my concentration suffers and I move on to more trivial matters. While I wish that I was better educated on these issues, I recognize that I'll probably never understand them very well.
I've reported here several times from Hinkle Fieldhouse, and am prone to wax rhapsodically about how much I enjoy visiting there. On a cold winter day, there are few places that I find to be more welcoming. When Butler is playing well, and the light is shining in through the windows above, I find that to be the ultimate basketball experience.
On this night in mid-March, Butler hosted Delaware in the first round of the fifth annual CBI tournament. The weather was fantastic, and the university hosted a tailgate party in the Hinkle parking lot prior to the game. I had obligations at work that kept me there late into the day, so I missed the tailgating completely, and managed to arrive on campus just as the starting lineups were being introduced. Before heading into the fieldhouse, I checked the outside temperature from my car. At 8:00 PM, it was 77 degrees. I don't know exactly why we are experiencing these record highs, but it certainly was very pleasant at that moment.
Upon entering, it was obvious that the balmy outdoor temperatures had created somewhat of a hothouse inside Hinkle. At the age of 84, Hinkle lacks modern cooling technology, and so while the old barn provides a cozy, comfortable environment when the outside temperature is well below freezing, it was quite unpleasant inside on this summer-like evening. Having coming straight from the office, I was still clad in a long-sleeve dress shirt and dress pants. How I envied those who thought ahead enough to come in T-shirt and shorts! For those on the court, the game started off in a predictably sluggish way given the conditions, and substitutions were more frequent than usual.
I also quickly noted the large number of empty seats, which disappointed me quite a bit. I think a number of local fans were frustrated with the team's coming up short in the Horizon League tournament, and would have preferred the team deny the bid to such a "lesser" post-season tournament. I really don't see a significant difference between the NIT, the CBI, and the CIT. Each of those, while not the main event, would still give teams more opportunity to develop their young players and to see how they would respond in a "win or go home" situation. With underclassmen featured in such key roles, both Butler and Delaware would seem to be able to benefit greatly by a run through the CBI.
Butler's clear focus in this game was to pressure Delaware's star guard Devon Saddler. The powerful 6'2" sophomore had three straight games of 20+ points, and had demonstrated a knack of getting to the basket and drawing fouls. When Butler's Ronald Nored, the Horizon League's Defensive Player of the Year, picked up two quick fouls, Saddler seemed well-positioned for another starring performance. However, the Bulldogs continued with a good team effort to control Saddler, and he ended the first half with just a pair of free throws to his credit. Part of that credit should go to freshman walk-on Alex Barlow; he played 21 solid minutes in this game, after playing a total of just 17 minutes in the entire season! This was a fine contribution from a most unexpected source.
On the other end of the floor, Butler got a key spark from the much maligned junior guard Chase Stigall, who has struggled with his shooting touch through the entire season. Stigall's trio of superhoops in a span of about four minutes gave the Dawgs an eight-point advantage, which held up until the halftime break.
With Butler students on Spring Break, local alumni were beckoned to help fill out the Butler Band. While sparse in number, they helped to provide some additional enthusiasm to the small crowd on hand. This also occurs during holiday breaks, and I always marvel at how effectively the alumni can step in and keep the band's presence alive.
The second half began with a 9-0 Butler run to stretch the lead to 40-23, and the visiting Blue Hens fought an uphill battle the rest of the way. While the lead never fell below ten points, Delaware continued to play hard. I was most impressed with their freshman guard Jarvis Threatt. Early in the game, it was clear that he was the quickest player on the court, and he combined that with an aggressive attitude to be their go-to guy on offense. Threatt scored 21 of his 31 points in the second half. We're not very accustomed to seeing an opposing player come into Hinkle and drop 30+ points on the home team, and it was hard to not admire Threatt's ability. Even with his contributions, Butler was able to keep Saddler under control throughout the game; he ended with ten points, but also individually had ten turnovers - a most unappealing double-double. Their two guards are complemented by a good array of talent, and I expect Delaware to be a very competitive team in the CAA over the next couple of years.
On our way out after a good victory, we encountered some unpleasant news through signs taped on Hinkle's doors. "Butler will play AT PENN on Monday, March 19." So, despite the CBI's initial announcement of "Butler Headlines the Field for the 2012 CBI", the Dawgs will be on the road for the second round. I am somewhat ashamed at how irritated I was upon seeing them being assigned to the road, as if a 21-14 team from the Horizon League is entitled to a homecourt advantage throughout the entire tournament. I am also extremely jealous of those on the East Coast who will get a chance to see Butler play Penn at the Palestra. I would love to be there, but my schedule won't allow it. I look forward to a report here on that one, which would seem to be a fitting game for number 800, even if it is just the CBI.
at BUTLER 75, DELAWARE 58 03/14/2012
DELAWARE 18-14 (12-6) -- D. Saddler 2-7 6-11 10; K. Lewis 1-4 0-0 2; K. Anderson 0-4 0-0 0; J. Threatt 10-14 9-13 31; J. Hagins 3-5 0-1 6; J. Brinkley 3-5 1-2 7; H. McCullar 0-0 0-0 0; K. McNeil 0-0 2-4 2; L. Savage 0-0 0-0 0; S. Madarani 0-0 0-0 0; B. McNulty 0-0 0-0 0; W. Townsville 0-1 0-0 0; T. Williams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-40 18-31 58. BUTLER 21-14 (11-7) -- A. Smith 7-11 2-5 17; C. Hopkins 7-15 3-6 19; C. Stigall 3-6 1-2 10; K. Woods 3-7 0-0 6; R. Nored 3-6 4-4 12; A. Barlow 0-1 4-4 4; R. Jones 0-6 0-0 0; K. Marshall 0-1 2-2 2; G. Butcher 1-3 0-0 2; E. Fromm 1-4 1-1 3; E. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-1 0-0 0; A. Smeathers 0-0 0-0 0; J. Aldridge 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-61 17-24 75.
Three-point goals: DEL 2-9 (W. Townsville 0-1; D. Saddler 0-1; K. Lewis 0-1; J. Threatt 2-3; K. Anderson 0-3), BUTL 8-19 (G. Butcher 0-2; R. Nored 2-3; C. Stigall 3-6; A. Smith 1-2; E. Fromm 0-1; C. Hopkins 2-3; A. Barlow 0-1; K. Woods 0-1); Rebounds: DEL 22 (J. Hagins 5), BUTL 31 (A. Smith 7); Assists: DEL 6 (K. Lewis 2), BUTL 15 (R. Nored 3); Total Fouls -- DEL 21, BUTL 26; Fouled Out: DEL-None; BUTL-None.