It didn't take long at all before the Butler found themselves running away from their visitors in Tuesday night's exhibition contest at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The youthful home standing Bulldogs took advantage of every miscue of visiting Nova Southeastern, blowing away the Sharks, 101-64.
Alex Barlow and Kellen Dunham started in the backcourt, with Erik Fromm in the middle, while Kameron Woods and Khyle Marshall rounded out the starting lineup at the forward slots. Those five bring back a lot of experience from last year's 27-9 squad, which will be without the services of returning scorer and rebounder Roosevelt Jones this season.
Dunham (Pendleton, IN/Pendleton Heights) dropped down all of his team-high 16 points, while freshman Elijah Brown (Los Angeles, CA/Mater Dei) knocked down eight of his 11 by halftime.
Butler cruised its way to doubling up the Sharks through the first 20 minutes, 55-27. The Bulldogs shot pretty well in the first half, making 18-of-28 from the floor over all and sinking 7-for-13 from outside the three-point arc. Three of those seven treys came from Dunham's 3-5 shooting (5-8 overall) and junior guard Jackson Aldridge (Sydney, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) swished his only two attempts from downtown to finish with eight.
The second half was all about spreading out the playing time and keeping the Sharks at a distance, which is exactly what the Bulldogs were able to do. Butler was able to do what it wanted, pretty much whenever they wanted to against the visitors from the Sunshine State, outscoring Nova Southeastern 46-37 in the final half.
Khyle Marshall (Davie, FL/Flanagan), who grew up just down the road from Nova Southeastern, finished with 13 points (6-8 field goals) and four boards. Freshman Nolan Berry (St. Louis, MO/De Smet) quickly became a crowd favorite as he scrapped his way to scoring six of his 11 points in the first half, while also grabbing six rebounds.
Senior center Erik Fromm (Bloomington, IN/South) added eight points in his starting role, making 5-of-6 free throws and Kameron Woods (Louisville, KY/Eastern) snagged nine rebounds to his credit.
Junior Andrew Smeathers (Bargersville, IN/Center Grove) scored five on a three and a couple from the charity stripe and flighty sophomore guard Devontae Morgan (Tampa, FL/Tampa Prep) put four on the scoreboard, with four rebounds and two assists.
Freshmen Steven Bennett (New Castle, IN/Chrysler) was one of a few that awoke the Hinkle Fieldhouse crowd on hand in the second half, scoring six in just eight minutes. Three additional freshmen gave it their all when they got their opportunity. Andrew Chrabascz (Portsmouth, RI/Cushing Academy) netted four points and four rebounds, Rene Castro (Milton, MA/Worcester Academy) had four and dished out a pair of assists and local product Michael Volovic (Carmel, IN/Carmel) managed five points in eight minutes on the floor.
Nova Southeastern was only able to get two into double-figures. Chris Page led all scorers with a game-high 18 points on six field goals and 4-4 from the foul line. Casey Carroll had 13 and Brian Cahill added nine for the visiting Sharks.
In the post-game press conference, I got the chance to ask Butler head coach Brandon Miller about the depth he'll have in his frontcourt.
"I think that's exactly what they give us. They give us depth and looking at our team, we're able to play a number of different combinations. Those guys fit to what we're doing and they each have their strengths and I think they'll both give something to this team. We're counting on those guys to play and that's why they're not going to redshirt. They'll give us valuable minutes throughout the season," said a confident Miller.
It seems pretty obvious that their four-game trip to Australia in August has helped this group of Butler Bulldogs and their chemistry immensely and will even more as the season progresses.
Butler will be playing its second of two exhibition games against Division III DePauw University from Greencastle, Indiana on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs will open regular season play on Saturday, November 9 when they host the Lamar Cardinals of the Southland Conference for an 8 p.m. tipoff on Fox Sports 2.