Kamar Baldwin doesn’t like to lose, but maybe that’s not saying a lot, or enough, at a level where no college basketball player likes to lose. No, Baldwin really doesn’t like losing, so his options became simple. Baldwin refused to leave Madison Square Garden without a win, then willed his way to a career-high 32-points.
Butler head coach LaVall Jordan was going to have to drag his 6-foot-1-inch, 170-pound guard out the Garden doors kicking and screaming back to Indianapolis if Butler didn’t pull off that 75-74 comeback win against Seton Hall in the Big East quarterfinals.
“I don’t know if it was a scheme,” Jordan said after the game. “It was more will. It was more will than strategy.”
Tyler Wideman was credited with the winning tip-in, but thanks to Baldwin, no one on this team is going back to Indianapolis. At least, not on a Thursday night bus. But that’s Friday’s problem, when Butler faces Villanova for the third time this season.
Tonight Baldwin was raging, and he was doing it in the best way possible — the kind that secures a program-first Big East Tournament win.
“Our motto is ‘Gritty, not pretty,’” Baldwin said. “We battled. We knew it was going to be a battle the whole game. In the huddle, we talked amongst each other — the players — we need to get the stops and get it back. And that’s what we did to trim the lead down.”
Funny, the question at hand was actually addressing Baldwin’s individual performance — 32 points, remember — but look how he turned that around. Baldwin was asked to talk his 12-for-20 night and yet the sophomore never used the word “I.”
Not once. Guess we’ll have to do it for him.
His 3-pointer tied the game for the first time at the 3:35 mark after Seton Hall once held a 14-point lead. The way he scooted past Tyler Wideman’s screen to knock down the shot made Seton Hall doubt themselves just a little.
Just a little was enough for Baldwin to tie the game again with a pair of free throws. 68-68 with 1:39 left. His second shot was ready to swirl off the rim until Baldwin willed it to fall in, because guys like Baldwin really don’t like to lose.
Guys like Baldwin don’t get to programs like Butler by losing, and that last loss to Seton Hall six days earlier in particular was grinding at him. Nine stinking points. Guys like Baldwin don’t slump on 4-for-11 shooting, but that’s what his stat line read on Saturday.
Afterwards, senior Kelan Martin sent Baldwin a text: “We believe in you. We need you.”
So yeah, that was on Baldwin’s mind.
The team’s second-highest scorer (15.6 PPG) had only scored 11 points against St. John’s earlier, then eight and seven points against Creighton and Providence, respectively. It grinded at him. If he scored just nine points last game, then Baldwin was going to set his mind towards scoring almost four times as much this time around.
Which is exactly how Seton Hall lost a game when they led for all but 98 seconds.
“I’m not sure what changed,” Pirates’ Khadeen Carrington said.”It’s just that they went on their run. We had our runs and they just had the last run. But I think we still continued to try to play defense. Baldwin was hot tonight. So it was hard to stop him.”
You could almost see Carrington trying to process the last minutes of the game, never really able to pinpoint the reason why his team lost until he — wait for it — landed on Kamar Baldwin’s name. Seton Hall can strategize defense and block shots all they want, but there’s not much a team can do against a guy who really doesn’t like to lose.
Butler had lost its last five of seven regular season games. And Kamar Baldwin was tired of losing. More specifically, he was tired of losing in the Big East Tournament.
Four years of losing was enough, and he wasn’t going to leave Madison Square until he scored as many points as it took for a win.
Turns out it was exactly 32 points, and finally it was OK for Baldwin to leave. The Garden’s staff members were still there, and so were the media members rewriting their game stories, but Kamar Baldwin had left the building.