Brandon Miller had a tough task ahead of him. The new Butler head coach not only had to try to make a dent on the recruiting trail just days after being named head coach, but also prepare his team for a trip abroad.
Butler was slated to take a four game, nearly two week trip to Australia. The Bulldogs took on the Norths Bears, Sydney Kings, Cairns Taipans, and the Australian Boomers (National Team).
Several key contributors this year got off to a good start as well with junior Andrew Smeathers having 8 points (2/5 3PT) and Khyle Marshall had 8 points and 7 rebounds. Kameron Woods added 4 points and 9 rebounds (4 offensive).
The freshman also got some quality time on the court including Nolan Berry scoring 9 points (4/6 FG, 1/2 3PT). Elijah Brown, while held scoreless, looked aggressive and has the potential to be a scorer. Rene Castro and Andrew Chrabascz each saw the floor as well.
Overall the Bulldogs had a strong opening game to the trip, but it was against the weakest competition as well. Butler clamped down on the defensive end of the floor and only allowed 39% shooting from the Bears. Butler connected on 41% including 33% (10/30) from 3-point range.
The only bad news of the day was the loss of junior Roosevelt Jones to a wrist injury, which would sideline him for the remainder of the trip. Jones looks to be recovering and the injury doesn't look like it will affect him going into the season in October.
Next Butler took on the NBL's Sydney Kings. A tougher test than the semi-pro Bears, the Kings jumped on Butler early, but the Bulldogs responded and rallied for a 82-76 victory.
Butler trailed by as many as 11 points in the 2nd half and despite a poor shooting night from Dunham (5/22 FG, 0/11 3PT) and just 10 points, the Bulldogs scratched out a win. Erik Fromm led the team with 18 points, Khyle Marshall added 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Woods added a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Jackson Aldridge also showed promise at the point off the bench. He scored 11 points and handled the pressure from the Kings well.
Butler shot 42% from the floor and launched another 27 3-pointers. They connected on only 6 of them. Another key statistic was Butler dominating the glass 46-29.
Their third game of the trip was against the Australian National team, or Boomers. The Boomers were led by former San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills, Utah center Luke Nevill, and multiple other players that have had success either in college basketball or the NBA.
The Bulldogs came up short against the talented, 10th-ranked team in the world (according to FIBA) 96-57.
The game was closed to the public, but reports were that the Boomers were led by Mills and Ingles with 16, while Nevill added 14 points. They shot 53% from the field including 42% from 3-point range.
Butler was led by Dunham once again with 16 points, although a full box score was unavailable. Butler struggled with the pressure from the Boomers and were down early and couldn't make up the deficit.
The final test of the trip came against the NBL's Cairns Taipans, to which Butler yielded its highest point total of the trip and fell 97-73.
Butler again fell behind early and couldn't catch up to the hot shooting Taipans. They shot 65% against the Bulldogs including 9/19 from 3-point range.
Butler was led for the 3rd game by Dunham with 16 points on 6/16 FGs and 4/11 3PT. Marshall and Fromm each added 13.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to just 8 at halftime, 48-40, but couldn't get any closer in the 2nd half. Butler lost the rebounding margin 30-22.
Berry had another solid game for Butler off the bench. The true freshman scored 7 points (3/4 FG). Chrabascz also received more time on the court and capitalized with 8 points (3/4 FG).
Overall on the trip, Dunham led the Bulldogs in scoring averaging 16 points per game while the Butler went 2-2. Marshall, Woods, and Fromm each made their presence felt along the trip as well. Devontae Morgan also flashed a presence off the bench and showed defensive tenacity with improved offensive play. The starting lineup will certainly change from the trip as Jones returns from his injury, but Miller went with Barlow, Dunham, Fromm, Woods, and Marshall consistently.
Overall the trip taught the coaching staff and team a lot about itself. The Bulldogs bonded not only on the court, but also off it. The team took trips to destinations such as The Great Barrier Reef, toured Sydney, and even got up close and personal to some wildlife.
"Not only playing the games, I think that's a really small part of what we are doing here in Australia," Miller said. "Going on those tours and spending time with those guys makes it really special. I want to be around our guys as much as I can."