ORLANDO (FL) - Butler (5-0) advances to take on #5 Oklahoma State (6-0) in the semifinals of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. InsideTheDawgPound takes a look at what to expect on Black Friday when the Bulldogs meet the Cowboys.
Know Your Foe
Record - 6-0 (0-0)
Coach - Travis Ford, 6th Season, 109-64
Mascot - Cowboys
Conference - Big12
Enrollment - 23,500
Tale of the Tape
Butler is now 5-0 under new head coach Brandon Miller and off to their best start since 2008-09. The Bulldogs defeated Washington State (2-3) 76-69 in the 1st Round of the Old Spice Classic. Senior Khyle Marshall (30) and sophomore Kellen Dunham (32) each set career highs in the win. The number 5 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys enter the game after defeating Purdue (5-1) 97-87 in the 1st Round. Oklahoma State controlled much of the game as the Boilermakers tried to rally but couldn't get over the hump. Super sophomore Marcus Smart scored 30 points, while Markel Brown scored 25.
Players to Watch
Alex Barlow - The junior point guard may have the unenviable task of guarding future NBA point guard Marcus Smart. The consensus lottery pick will be a tough matchup for Barlow with his size, speed, and ability to finish at the rim. Barlow needs to stay out of foul trouble or help take away others if he does not draw the assignment of Smart.
Kameron Woods - Oklahoma State has a lot of size, length, and athleticism. Woods will need to be special again on the glass, both offensively and defensively. He has three games with 10 or more rebounds including two games in a row. If Butler is going to have success, Woods needs to be active altering shots on the defensive end as well.
Elijah Brown - While Kellen Dunham is going to be relied upon from the perimeter to score, the Bulldogs will need another threat against the Cowboys. Brown was held scoreless against Washington State on only three shot attempts. If he can rebound from the scoreless outing, Brown could be key for Butler from the perimeter.
Marcus Smart - It goes without saying that Smart is going to be the best NBA prospect on the court Friday. While he would have been drafted in the top 5 picks a year ago, he decided to return back to Oklahoma State. Smart is averaging 22.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.5 steals and shooting 47.1% from the field this year.
Phil Forte - The sophomore sharp shooter will remind some Butler fans of Rotnei Clarke with his size and quick release. The 5-foot 11 guard is shooting 60% from three point range and averaging 14 points per game. Forte thrives off of the drive and kick out from Smart, but can also get to the basket himself.
Markel Brown - The senior wing will be one of the most athletic players that Butler sees all season long. Not only can Brown finish at the rim with the best in the country, but he is also hitting a career high 51.6% on threes (16/31). Butler needs to be cautious when they close out on Brown as he may pump fake and take it to the rim aggressively.
Keys to the Game
Contain Smart - While Butler might not be able to stop Marcus Smart they do need to try and contain the sophomore on the perimeter. The Bulldogs will give Smart a few looks including Barlow, Devontae Morgan, Elijah Brown, and maybe even Kameron Woods throughout the game. If Butler can make Smart uncomfortable and contain his explosive drives, Butler will be in good position.
Butler Free Throw Shooting - Butler had their best free throw shooting performance of the season against Washington State and that needs to continue against Oklahoma State. The Bulldogs need to take advantage of any chances they get to score, especially without a defender in their face. The Cowboys have only given up 143 free throw attempts while shooting 212 of their own.
Calm the Storm Early - Oklahoma State likes to get out front and stay out front. The Cowboys are outscoring opponents 312-180 in the 1st half this season. One reason they are comfortable in the lead is their free throw shooting. The Cowboys are shooting 73.1% (155/212) from the charity stripe. Butler needs to stay in the game in the 1st half and not allow Oklahoma State to run away with the game.
4-0 - Butler's record against Oklahoma State all-time.
76.2% - Butler's free throw shooting against Washington State, their best of the season.
38.3% - Oklahoma State allow teams to shoot field goals at this percentage.
99.7 - Oklahoma State's average points per game this season.
5 - Number of players averaging in double figures for Oklahoma State (Smart, Brown, Forte, Nash, Williams)
105 - Turnovers forced by Oklahoma State this season