LaVall Jordan’s first defeat as Butler basketball coach was the antithesis of the way he played as a Bulldog.
Maryland exploited Butler’s porous defense and clunky offense, rolling to a 79-65 victory Wednesday night in the Gavitt Games.
Anthony Cowan Jr. scored a career-high 25 points for the Terrapins, who shot 57 percent.
Butler coach LaVall Jordan speaks with the media after Butler's loss to Maryland on Wednesday.David Woods/IndyStar
Sean McDermott led Butler with a career-high 17 points, shooting 3-of-7 on 3-pointers. Kamar Baldwin scored 15 and Kelan Martin 12.
► BOX SCORE: Maryland 79, Butler 65
The Bulldogs trailed by as many as 13 points before closing within 61-56 on Aaron Thompson’s one-and-one with 6:45 left. Maryland (3-0) pulled away thereafter.
The outcome raised Maryland’s record to 29-2 in nonleague home games since 2014. Butler (2-1) was a five-point underdog.
Three reasons Butler lost:
Defense under construction
Maryland shot 71 percent in the first half, mixing five 3s with four dunks. The Bulldogs have not built a lockdown defense that has been their trademark, and which Jordan played.
Lack of size is one factor — the Terps lobbed over Butler’s shorter defenders — but the dogs have done little to make opponents uncomfortable.
Once the Terps created rhythm, even bounces off the rim fell through for 3s. Butler limited the damage by stealing the ball and creating turnovers. Yet the Bulldogs led only 15-13 in points off turnovers.
Baldwin, Thompson and Henry Baddley are good on-ball defenders, but the collective net the Dawgs once threw over opponents is torn.
Even though the season is beginning, this was not a new development. Princeton shot 56 percent in Sunday’s 85-75 loss to the Bulldogs.
Jordan has tried to increase the Bulldogs’ tempo, mindful they must get stops and rebounds to make that happen.
It did not often happen. Butler’s half-court possessions too often ended up as scoreless one-on-one forays by Baldwin, Martin or somebody else. The result? Butler shot 34 percent.
Baldwin is a work-in-progress point guard. Best thing to happen to him, and to Butler, is emergence of Thompson at the point.
Thompson might continue to come off the bench, but it is obvious that the offense clicks more smoothly with him at the controls. He had six assists and six points.
Butler’s K-men struck out
K is the symbol for strikeout in baseball scoring. Butler’s two Ks, Kelan and Kamar, essentially struck out.
Martin went through his junior season as a marked man, and not until late in the season when he came off the bench did he become the efficient scorer that was envisioned.
His status has been elevated this season. It was obvious he was targeted by Maryland defenders. It is perhaps not fair Butler needs him to come up big on a nightly basis … but that is what Butler needs.
Baldwin shot an uncharacteristic 6-of-21 and fouled out.
The Bulldogs need balance to be in contention for another NCAA tournament berth. But they will rise or fall on those Ks.