No. 11 Butler, behind Kamar Baldwin, tops Creighton 71-57
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kamar Baldwin scored all 20 of his points in the second half Saturday and Sean McDermott added 18 to help No. 11 Butler pull away from Creighton 71-57.
McDermott also had a career-high 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs (14-1, 2-0 Big East), who have won five straight.
Marcus Zegarowski finished with 15 points and Damien Jefferson had 12 for Creighton (12-3, 1-1), which had an eight-game winning streak snapped.
Baldwin, who was a game-time decision after getting hurt in Tuesday’s conference opener, certainly didn’t play like his usual wasn’t himself. He missed all nine of his shots in the first half including three 3-pointers, had two turnovers and one foul.
But in the second half, he thwarted every rally the Bluejays mounted.
When Creighton cut the deficit to five midway through the second half, Baldwin scored on a layup. When the Bluejays finally pulled within four with 9:18 to play, Baldwin answered with his only 3. And then Baldwin closed it out by scoring seven of Butler’s last 11 points.
He just needed some help getting started and Derrik Smits provided the boost off the bench midway through the first half.
Smits, the son of former Indiana Pacers star Rik Smits, made back-to-back baskets before tossing a nifty pass to Henry Baddley for a dunk to start a 14-3 run that gave Butler a 24-12 lead midway through the first half.
Butler never trailed again.
Jefferson finally got the Bluejays righted early in the second half. He scored eight of Creighton’s first 11 points to help cut the deficit to 43-38 with 14:43 to play.
But they couldn’t get any closer until Ty-Shon Alexander made two free throws to make it 50-46 before Baldwin closed it out.
Creighton: The high-scoring offense struggled, largely because of Bluejays’ inability to create good shots off of ball movement in the first half. And when that didn’t work, Creighton’s players couldn’t create their own shots. The Bluejays were better in the second half but need to get much better.
Butler: This team doesn’t rely exclusively — or even primarily — on 3-point shooting anymore. Instead, they’re willing to grind out wins however they can, and it’s a big reason they could continue climbing in the rankings. They don’t give up many good shots defensively and have just enough balance offensively to finish the job.
Creighton: Finished with its second-lowest scoring total of the season and its lowest scoring half (24) all season. … Creighton shot 34.5% from the field and were 3 of 15 on 3s in the first half and finished 4 of 22 from beyond the arc. … Alexander had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Butler: Baldwin was 7 of 22 from the field and 1 of 8 on 3s. … Aaron Thompson had 10 points and Bryce Nze added nine points and seven rebounds. … The Bulldogs have allowed 18.2 points in the first half of their last five games.
Creighton will try to regroup Tuesday when it hosts No. 10 Villanova.
Butler hopes to keep its winning streak intact at Providence on Friday.