One thing has been certain so far in Buffalo Men’s Basketball’s three game winning streak and that’s been lockdown defense from red-shirt sophomore guard Dontay Caruthers. The Rochester, NY native has been the best defensive presence for the Bulls he should be in the talks for MAC defensive player of the year.
Above is a video I put together of Caruthers’ latest performance on the defensive end against Northern Illinois. This is the type of effort we’ve seen from him all season except I think a lot of us take it for granted along with not noticing it enough.
The first clip of this video shows off Caruthers’ awareness of everything going on the floor. He doesn’t lose his defensive assignment and knows where his guy is at all times along with the ability to help Hamilton cover the on-ball defending that was currently happening. NIU got the offensive rebound but Caruthers was in the right spot to force the Huskies to reset play from the top of the key instead of take it back in for another easy shot.
Although the next clip shows a foul at 17:39 left in the first half, it perfectly encapsulates the effort Caruthers is putting in on every possession. Had he been just a tad less aggressive after the screen was used on him, he probably would’ve been fine and disrupted that shot.
Next, you see Perkins leave his assignment over on the perimeter with 9:13 left in the half and what Caruthers does isn’t even expected of him. As soon as NIU pitches the ball back out beyond the arc, Dontay goes full speed ahead to completely destroy any chance that three-point shot has at getting into the bucket. It’s the effort like this that ruins three-point field goal percentages and many players throughout college basketball seldom show it (I’m looking at you, UCLA).
Then there’s the drawn charge in the second half. How Caruthers gets his feet set into position in that situation is absolutely insane. If he’s just a bit slower getting there, it goes the other way and turns into a blocking foul.
The steal with 15:56 left in the game is impressive within itself, but the all out war Dontay had to get the jump ball after Perkins was stripped from a sure dunk is even more impressive. The last time I saw somebody wrestle for the ball like that on the right side of the court was the now-departed Shannon Evans—which isn’t a bad player to be compared to.
All this footage only scratches the surface but it’s clear how much of an impact Dontay makes despite not quite finding his offensive game yet this season. He’s ninth in the nation at steal percentage and his perimeter defense has helped leave the past three opponents in a bind in terms of shooting percentage. Northern Illinois only made a single shot deep, Ball State was 4-15, and CMU also struggled at 9-26.
If Caruthers keeps this up, he’s MAC Defensive Player of the Year in my book. He’s hurting some really good three point shooting teams and without him the Bulls wouldn’t have got their first three-game winning streak. The Ohio media will probably beg to differ but watching Caruthers on defense every possession is enough to see how much he impacts a game.