Butler’s season-long recipe for success served up another victory as the No. 24 Bulldogs topped Florida, 76-62, Saturday afternoon at a sold-out Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler locked in defensively for 40 minutes, holding the Gators to 6-of-26 shooting from behind the arc. The Bulldogs also committed just three second-half turnovers in stretching the lead to a comfortable margin midway through the second half.
With the win, Butler improves to 9-0 on the season and stretches the nation’s longest home non-conference winning streak to 56.
Sean McDermott and Aaron Thompson led the Bulldogs with 16 points apiece. Thompson added a game-high seven assists, while McDermott had seven rebounds, the most of any player on the floor Saturday. Butler moved the ball well, assisting on 19 of the team’s 25 makes.
“There is nothing better than a Saturday afternoon at Hinkle,” said Butler coach LaVall Jordan. “Our students were great; the environment was awesome. Florida is a really good team defensively and I’m proud of our guys for fighting every possession. Nineteen assists on 25 field goals shows how connected this group is. We didn’t handle their pressure well late, but it’s great to come away with a win while still having some things we can learn from.”
Butler shot 52 percent from the field and tied a season-high with nine three-pointers. After Florida built an early 19-13 lead, the Bulldogs closed the first half by scoring 22 of the final 29 points. Butler’s last eight points came from McDermott over the final 1:09 as Butler took a 35-26 lead into the locker rooms. Ten of Jordan Tucker’s 13 points came in the first half as Kamar Baldwin and Bryce Nze were both saddled with two early fouls for Butler.
After seven first-half turnovers, the Bulldogs cleaned things up in the second half against Florida’s pressure by committing only three. Butler shot 52 percent in each half, and made 17 of 22 attempts at the free throw line to secure the win.
After Florida cut Butler’s lead to 39-33 less than three minutes into the second half, the Bulldogs countered with a 16-6 spurt to take a comfortable 55-39 lead with 10:41 remaining. The lead would grow to 19, which was important as Florida made a run to 67-58 before running out of gas.
Baldwin finished with 12 points and six assists. Baldwin is now two points shy of tenth place on Butler’s career scoring list. He has 1,605.
Kerry Blackshear led Florida with 17 points.
The Bulldogs continue a grueling gauntlet that will take the team to Baylor Tuesday night. That contest will be Butler’s fifth in a row against power-conference opponents and only Saturday’s game against Florida has been at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler and the nationally-ranked Bears will tip at 9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.