The Butler Grizzlies came into Saturday’s conference opener against the Garden City Busters averaging 123.3 points per game and shooting 59.1 percent from the field.
The Busters held them to half those numbers, winning 75-59 on the Grizzlies’ home court in El Dorado in the teams’ conference opener.
“I think it’s a (confidence boost),” GCCC head coach Brady Trenkle said. “Any win right out of the gate in conference is huge. I think our guys really showed up to play.”
The biggest boost for the Busters — who remained unbeaten at 5-0 and 1-0 in the KJCCC — might have been the rim protection provided by Jeff Otchere off the bench and Jamir Thomas, who combined for 13 blocks. Otchere had nine by himself in 14 minutes, according to Trenkle.
“That really made a difference,” Trenkle said. “Jeff came in and made a huge impact right away defensively.”
The Busters also got a season-high 22 points from Russhard Cruickshank, and 13 points each from Pierre Johnson and Kendale Hampton.
“The guy we needed to step up for us tonight stepped up big, and that was Pierre Johnson,” Trenkle said. “He’s the only guy who’s played in this conference on the road.”
Johnson had five rebounds, three assists and a steal for the Busters, who dealt with foul trouble from both Thomas and Elvis Harvey, both of whom fouled out, the latter in just five minutes of play.
“We dealt with a lot of foul trouble, but the good thing is they learned how to rebound from things,” Trenkle said.
The Busters pulled away early, behind Cruickshank’s dead-eye shooting from deep as he hit five of his six three-pointers in the first 10 minutes of play, the last of which gave the Busters a 26-11 lead with 10:13 left in the half.
“He played great. He hit those threes in the first half, and that’s what really built our lead up, and we were able to maintain it,” Trenkle said.
The Grizzlies (3-1, 0-1), who trailed 39-24 at half, did pull within nine twice in the second half, but the Busters quickly extended it to deny any rallies. Three players led the Grizzles with 11 points, Karlon McSpadden, Adrian Moore and Antferene Adams.
The Busters return home to play Barton at 8 p.m. Wednesday.