INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Butler coach LaVall Jordan enjoyed the view from the best seat in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday.
He watched Paul Jorgensen deliver some early scoring punches at Mississippi then had a front row seat to watch Kamar Baldwin’s closing flurry.
Jorgensen scored 21 of his career-high 27 points in the first half and Baldwin scored 12 of his 23 in the final six minutes to propel the Bulldogs past the pesky Rebels 83-76.
“I’m glad I can sit in the middle of these two guys,” Jordan said, flanked by his two high-scoring guards in the postgame news conference. “I love our backcourt. I think they play the game the right way.”
Jorgensen and Baldwin also make the Bulldogs especially tough to beat.
Butler is 3-0 for the fifth time in six years and the first time since Jordan returned to his alma mater last season and extended the nation’s third longest home winning streak against nonconference foes to 46. Only Duke and Arizona have longer streaks than Butler’s, which dates to the 2012 postseason.
And the streak survived largely because of Jorgensen’s incredible start — he made his first five shots including three from 3-point range while scoring 14 of Butler’s first 19 points — and Baldwin, who wound up making all 12 of his free throws on a night he finished 5 of 17 from the field.
The combination simply proved too much for Mississippi (1-1), which spent most of the night hanging around despite being saddled with foul trouble. Terence Davis went 6 of 9 on 3s and had 30 points while Breein Tyree added 17 points — not quite enough as the Rebels lost for the 12th time in 13 trips away from their Oxford campus.
“Jorgensen got them off to such a good start and we made so many defensive mistakes,” new coach Kermit Davis said. “And we just couldn’t keep them off the free-throw line in the last eight minutes. To go 18 of 18 from the line was really the difference in the second half.”
But it turned out far more competitive than expected.
Butler led 41-36 at halftime and pulled out to a 47-40 lead on Jorgensen’s fifth three early in the second half.
Mississippi refused to break, capping a 9-0 run with Davis’ 3 from the corner to take a 60-57 lead with 8:25 to play. Tyree’s driving layup with 5:50 put the Rebels up 68-63.
Finally, Baldwin and the Bulldogs answered. Aaron Thompson’s three-point play was followed by Christian David’s spectacular block of 7-foot Dominik Oljeniczak and led to a midrange jumper from Baldwin. The run continued with Nate Fowler’s layup off a pass from Thompson and ended with two free throws from Baldwin to make it 72-68.
Butler closed it out with Jorgensen’s final 3, with 1:14 left, and the perfect free-throw shooting — an image they hope to duplicate throughout the season.
“It was great for him to come out there and shoot like that,” Baldwin said, referring to Jorgensen. “It’s what we’ve been waiting on, and we’ll see more of it, hopefully, during the season.”
Mississippi: The Rebels were competitive most of the night but simply lacked the depth to close it out, especially on a night they were in foul trouble.
Butler: The Bulldogs are tough to beat at Hinkle Fieldhouse most nights and are virtually unbeatable there against nonconference foes. Butler’s last loss to a nonconference foe at Hinkle came in the 2012 CBI Tournament against Pittsburgh,
Mississippi: Bruce Stevens scored six points before fouling out with 14:48 to play. … KJ Buffen scored nine points and Devontae Shuler had eight rebounds. Shuler and Davis each finished with five assists. … Mississippi was 1 of 26 on 3s and 13 of 21 from the free-throw line.
Butler: Baldwin had eight rebounds and five assists. Jorgensen was 6 of 10 on 3s. … The Bulldogs were 23 of 27 on free throws, making their last 22. … Butler committed only 10 turnovers.
THEY SAID IT
Mississippi: “The first time I played Butler was three years ago to go to the Sweet 16 and that was a good Butler team,” Davis said. “I thought they could have gone to the Final Four but they ran into North Carolina, which went on to win the national championship. I think this Butler team looks like it has the same makeup of that Butler team.”
Butler: “His (David’s) block was a momentum-changing play,” Jordan said. “It’s always next man up for his and he was ready.”
Mississippi returns home to face Nicholls State on Tuesday.
Butler visits the Bahamas for three games, starting with Dayton on Wednesday in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
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