Martin, Baldwin get best of Razorbacks' star trio

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Friday, March 16, 2018
Butler forward Kelan Martin brings the ball up court during the first half of a first round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament against Arkansas, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Butler forward Kelan Martin brings the ball up court during the first half of a first round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament against Arkansas, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

— Butler forward Kelan Martin saw teammates Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson watching Arkansas game film with the Bulldogs’ coaching staff late Thursday night.

The extra preparation paid off for Butler, who handed the Razorbacks a season-ending 79-62 loss in Little Caesars Arena on Friday and put a stranglehold on Arkansas senior guards Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford and freshman Daniel Gafford in the process.

Macon and Barford, who averaged nearly 35 points per game as a tandem this season entering Friday, were limited to 27 points on 7-of-21 shooting and 3-of-12 from behind the 3-point line.

“I think Kamar and Aaron did a tremendous job on Barford and Macon,” Martin said. “They just did a tremendous job. They were just locked in on personnel, so give them credit. But those two are great players.”

Meanwhile, Martin and Baldwin played like stars, besting Arkansas' trio by combining for 51 points on 18-of-33 from the floor and 18 rebounds to guide the Bulldogs to a Sunday meeting with 2-seed Purdue.

“They did that?” Barford responded when told the Butler duo’s final numbers. “They were just hitting shots, and it was like they were throwing a rock in the ocean. Even when we were contesting they were hitting great shots. If they both got it going like that there’s nothing you can do.”

Martin, one of three unanimous first-team All-Big East selections, showcased the scoring ability Arkansas coach Mike Anderson spoke so highly of in the days leading up to the game. The senior recorded his 20th 20-point game of the season, finishing with a game-high 27.

Martin also reached the 2,000 point mark in his Butler career with 10 points in the first half, becoming the third Bulldog to do so. He is one point shy of tying Darrin Fitzgerald (1983-87) for second on the program’s all-time scoring list.

“Their all-conference guys, they stepped up and made big, big plays,” Anderson said. “When you think of Martin, (he made) some guarded 3s that were big.”

After Butler raced out to a 21-2 lead early on, Arkansas surged back to take a 29-27 lead on C.J. Jones' 3-pointer with 3:48 left in the first half. Martin, though, added five points over the final 2:35 as part of a 9-2 Butler run to take a 36-31 lead into halftime.

Arkansas trailed 53-47 with 10:01 to play and forced turnovers on consecutive possessions, but was unable to make Butler pay with scores on the other end. Razorbacks freshman Darious Hall’s turnover on a 2-on-1 fastbreak led to a Martin 3-pointer to push the Bulldogs lead to nine.

“That was critical,” Barford said. “Those plays were critical.”

Martin scored 17 of his 27 in the second half, and Baldwin also added 15 after the break. Baldwin was at his best late in the game, scoring 11 points in the final 7:43, ballooning Butler’s lead to 73-59 on a layup with two minutes to go.

Arkansas senior guard Anton Beard cited shaky pick-and-roll defense for Baldwin’s success scoring late.

“When we started coming back we started hedging the screens and making him go wide,” Beard said. “We didn’t do it every time. We felt like they were a step faster than we were today.”

Not only did Butler’s defense limit Macon and Barford, it frustrated Gafford perhaps more than any other game this season. The El Dorado native, who said he hasn’t given thought to his future, scored just seven points on 2-of-9 shooting to go with five rebounds in 21 minutes.

Gafford said Butler "humiliated" him.

“We wanted to stay between him and the basket and make it hard for him to score and give him no angles," Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. "So I thought Tyler (Wideman) and Nate (Fowler) did a great job.

"We kept him off the glass. So it wasn't a big factor because we know that's part of his ability to help them is going to rebound and get putbacks."

Jordan said Friday's game was all about which team responded best in adverse situations, and Butler's stars got the best of Arkansas' in the end.

"Butler did good tonight by making tough shots, getting rebounds, getting key stops," Barford added. "They just made plays down the stretch that hurt us a lot."

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