EL DORADO – Butler’s defense, who allowed 97 points on Saturday, did a 180 on Wednesday. Butler beat the Pratt Beavers 78-55, countering with their lowest points allowed in an NJCAA game this season.
“Really pleased with our defensive performance tonight,” Butler head coach Kyle Fisher said. “Not our best effort in the second half, but never want to apologize for a 23-point win.”
Pratt took a 7-4 lead with 15:58 remaining in the half when Deontae Davis hit a three from above the break. Butler’s defense went into shutdown mode.
Butler did not allow the Beavers to get another bucket until the 6:04 mark, spanning 9 minutes and 54 seconds. They responded to the Pratt three with one of their own, Marque English hit one at the top of the key to make it 25-11 with 3:54 to go in the half.
Kamron Brice hit two threes and the blow out was on. English had another jumper, followed by a Grehlon Easter layup to make it 34-15 with 1:22 remaining in the half.
“We came out and focused on our defensive effort and played as a team to get it done,” English said.
Ndongo Ndaw really caused havoc for Pratt early on. His length and athleticism made Pratt make some questionable choices in the first half. He was perfect in the half shooting, too. He finished 5-of-5 for 11 points and seven rebounds.
“No one was more upset with how he played against Barton than Ndongo,” Fisher said. “He came out and had two really good days of practice and was good tonight.”
Shawn Hopkins hit a three to send Butler into the break with a 37-18 advantage. Butler held Pratt without a 2-point bucket for the entire first half.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team not get a 2-point field goal in a half,” Fisher said.
Pratt found some offense but it was not before the Grizzlies put them further behind the eight-ball. Easter and English hit back-to-back threes before the half really had gotten underway. Those threes really squashed any opportunity of a legitimate comeback.
“We knew they would come out and fight hard,” Easter said. “We did our best to keep our foot on their neck and keep them out of the game.”
Pratt made a run midway through the half. Butler led 51-26 with 13:44 remaining before the Beavers did anything. Jamel Horton hit two free throws and got to the rim, fueling an 8-0 run. Julian Ezuikwu finished the 10-1 off with 10:53 to go but the Grizzlies would shut it down after that.
Butler’s defense would step up again, holding Pratt scoreless for the next 2 1/2 minutes, while they increased their lead back to 20.
“Sometimes you get out of rhythm,” English said. “It’s the Jayhawk. Night in and night out you have to bring your ‘A’ game.”
Easter continued his dominant half with another three and two free throws, putting Butler ahead 66-45 with 5:59 remaining.
Easter led Butler with 21 points, 15 of those in the second half. He also had four assists and three rebounds. English finished with a double-double; 17 points and 11 rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting. He also had two blocks in the win.
John Long came off the bench to lead Pratt in scoring with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Jamel Horton had 12 points on 2-of-13 shooting, four rebounds and two assists. Eziukwu had eight points and 10 rebounds for the Beavers.
Butler’s defense held its second NJCAA opponent to under 60 points. It’s the most in a season since the 2014-15 season when Butler went to the National Tournament and held six different KJCCC teams under 60 points.
The 55 points allowed is the lowest since Butler held Seward to 53 last season on Nov. 28, 2018.
Butler improves to 12-4 on the season and 5-2 in conference play. Pratt drops to 8-7 on the year and 2-4 in the Jayhawk.
Butler will travel to Garden City on Saturday for a cross-divisional game with the Garden City Broncbusters. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. They’ll get Cloud County in Concordia on Monday night. That tips off at 8 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 15.
“It’s going to be a tough road swing for us, Three games in five days.” Fisher said. “Have good days of preparation and go beat a good team on the road.”