The Butler Bulldogs infamously put up 41 points in a losing effort of the 2011 national championship game against UConn. It was the lowest point total for a team in a title game dating back to the 1940s.
This is not a program that has ever been synonymous with offense.
Yet something incredible and aberrational happened Saturday night in college hoops. Something historic. Butler helped produce another outrageous outcome in what has turned into college basketball’s most unpredictable opening weekend in years: Butler more than tripled its offensive output from that gruesome 2011 title game, shooting 64 percent from the floor and setting a litany of school records in the process.
Butler scored 144 points. One-hundred-and-freaking-forty-freaking-four.
The Citadel, Butler’s hapless victim, lost by more points (73) than it scored (71).
“I told the guys, ‘This game you play against The Citadel will be the most unique game you ever play in,'” Butler coach Chris Holtmann told CBS Sports after the game Saturday night. “Afterwards, in the locker room, they were, like, ‘Coach, you weren’t lying.'”
The astonishing 144-71 outcome at hallowed Hinkle Fieldhouse signified the most points scored by a team in a men’s college basketball game featuring two D-I schools since TCU beat Texas-Pan American 153-87 all the way back in 1997. It’s a school record, obviously, and yet Butler did it despite making “just” eight 3-pointers.
The Bulldogs also did it by setting a school record for points in a half (71) … then setting a record for points in a half (73) later in the evening.
The insanity continues: For perhaps the first time ever, a team singlehandedly came within three points of matching the total over/under for the game. Butler vs. The Citadel was estimated by oddsmakers to land in the neighborhood of 147 total points. It finished with 217.
Butler’s previous school record for most points in a game? Try 128 — in double OT. (A 136-128 loss back on Feb. 9, 1991, to Evansville.) Butler’s 56 field goals set a school record, breaking the previous mark of 53 that was set against DePauw (Brad Stevens’ alma mater) way back in 1965.
Speaking of Stevens, he spoke with Holtmann earlier this week. Holtmann told CBS Sports on Saturday night he expressed to Stevens his concerns about his team entering the season. Not even an hour after the game ended on Saturday night, Holtmann checked his phone to see a text from the former Butler coach who’s now rebuilding the Boston Celtics.
“I hope you didn’t lose a whole of lot of sleep,” Stevens wrote.
The 73-point margin sets the new standard for Butler blowouts, besting that unforgettable 68-point smashing against — get this — Indiana Law School. You remember: It was an 82-14 drubbing back during the 1921-22 glory days. On Saturday, Bulldogs Jackson Davis (19), Tyler Wideman (18) and Tyler Lewis (17) all scored career highs. Butler’s Andrew Chrabascz dished a career-best eight assists. Everyone able to play did, and all of them scored. Butler had an unthinkable 92 points in the paint.
So how did this happen, exactly? Well, The Citadel — ranked 346th out of 351 teams at KenPom — is coached by a guy named Duggar Baucom. Now in his first year with The Citadel, the former VMI coach commands a specific type of scheme. He loves to run. Rather: to sprint. His teams have often led the country in possessions per game. But The Citadel is in major rebuilding mode.
Despite this, Baucom ran his guys in traps, presses and double teams on every possession all night. Butler proceeded to break almost all of them, turning the ball over 11 times in 96 possessions. Holtmann is familiar with Baucom’s system. When the former was coaching at Gardner Webb, his teams went 2-3 against Baucom’s VMI squads.
“The difference that I did not anticipate in playing them this time was, we had no film no them, they trapped every pass all over the floor for 40 minutes,” Holtmann told CBS Sports. “They were forcing you to play at a tempo and a pace, you could not run anything. They’re flying around and trapping all over the floor, and it forced us to play basketball. But it’s a major rebuild for him right now. He’s a good coach.”
Holtmann and his staff basically bailed on the team’s gameplan within the first few minutes of the game, when it became clear The Citadel and its inferior players were going to press and trap on every possession. Holtmann didn’t try to run up the score, either. He had walk-ins play the final eight minutes; Butler merely kept breaking the press and moving the ball near the hoop. Nearly all of Butler’s points came off transition or fast-break situations.
“I don’t know if this [game] tells us much,” Holtmann said. “It’s not like you could run offense. … There’s a point to where we’re not trying to be disrespectful to the opposition in any way.”
Again, of all the schools to do this … it’s Butler! Not exactly a program that built its rep on high-octane offense. But The Citadel continued to press, and so Butler’s scrubs played it out. BU is far and away the highest-ranked team The Citadel will face this season, so it’s unlikely anyone comes close to throwing up 144 on it again.
Holtmann insists this is by no means any indication of what’s to come. He still has some worry about the team in the coming weeks.
“I think we have a long way to go,” he said. “I don’t think we’re as far a long as we were at this point last year. Some of that is with new information and new pieces. Take tonight out of the equation, I just think we have a long ways to go.”
Don’t tell that to his daughter, Nora. The 5-year-old has been practicing her writing and penmanship at school. When Holtmann walked in the door late Saturday night, Nora ran up to him and slapped a sticky note against his dress shirt.
“144, Daddy!” she said, happily saying aloud what she wrote on the note.
Holtmann couldn’t help but smile and say: “Trust me, Nora, they’re not all going to be like that.”