Butler women suffocate Allen, 76-27
EL DORADO, Kansas—With the regular season beginning to wind down and a third straight conference championship already locked up, would the Butler women’s basketball team be able to maintain the same level of energy and consistency that got them where they are now?
On Saturday night, going up against an Allen County team that had one win all season, it took the Grizzlies some time to get everything clicking, but they would use a superb defensive effort to pull away for an easy 76-27 win to improve to 18-1 overall and 17-1 in the KJCCC.
The 27 points allowed is the best so far in a season full of outstanding defensive efforts. Prior to Saturday, the next fewest points scored on the Grizzlies this season was 30 by Northwest Kansas Tech in a game back on Feb. 20.
“I was proud of what they did,” Butler head coach Mike Helmer said. “I was proud of what we did defensively, other than some mental mistakes in the beginning, but after we got going a little bit and started playing defense a little bit things picked up.”
There were some frustrations early on. In the first quarter, the Grizzlies got next to nothing out of their half court offense. Allen County packed in a 2-3 zone, daring Butler to beat them from the perimeter. It worked early on as the Grizzlies missed their first nine three-point attempts.
“We knew they were going to pack it in and really try and slow us down,” Helmer noted. “But when we play good defense and get the ball going up and down the floor, that’s where we’re at our strength.”
Starting point guard Skyla Knight led the defensive effort as she pick-pocketed her way to several steals and breakaway layups.
In the first half alone, Allen turned the ball over 22 times with the Grizzlies scoring 31 points off of those turnovers. That coupled with a 9-0 run to end the half had Butler comfortably in front 40-18 at the half.
They were able to gain that advantage almost entirely without the services of sophomore star Tamara Nard, who picked up two fouls in the first 45 seconds of the game. She only played three minutes in the first half.
But Nard would come back and play big minutes in the second half, as she and the rest of the Grizzlies continued to clamp down defensively. They held the Red Devils to six points in the third quarter and took a 52-24 lead to the fourth.
Butler kept up the intensity on defense, limiting Allen to only one field goal and three points in the final ten minutes. Offensively, the Grizzlies found success in the post with freshman Kaylee Nero. She finished with a game-high 18 points while Knight tallied 16 and finished with nine steals. All together, Butler recorded 25 steals and forced 39 turnovers with 45 points off of those turnovers.
Helmer won’t have to try hard to find a reason to keep his team hungry with two games left in the regular season. On Monday, Butler hosts Cowley and then will go to Coffeyville next Wednesday looking to avenge their only loss of the season.
“If we win the next two games we should have the automatic bid for the national tournament, so that’s our focus right now,” Helmer said.