Tyler Lewis has more than likely been playing basketball since he physically could stumble up a court while bouncing a ball at the same time. So in asking him to take 19 month break from the thing that he does best in life is the equivalent of a punishment.
Now he is the one dishing out the punishment. And a lot of assists, as well.
The first-year Butler point guard ran the Bulldog offense with aplomb Thursday, as his team opened the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan in dominating fashion by beating Missouri State 93-59.
The Bulldogs will play Temple Friday. The Owls got by Minnesota in their opener 75-70.
"They're an offensive machine at this point," Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said of Butler in a release. "Tyler Lewis (with) 10 assists, he really is a difference maker out there."
Lewis had to spend all of last season after transferring from North Carolina State, and he is making up for lost time. But mostly, he simply is enjoying getting out on the court and running around like a little kid at recess.
"After the long sit-out year," Lewis said, "it's a lot of fun and just playing the game of basketball is a lot of fun. This group of guys makes it a whole lot of fun."
Lewis hit teammate Roosevelt Jones for his first assist less than two minutes into the game, before scoring his first basket a couple minutes later. It was that basket that put Butler (2-0) in a 6-6 tie with the Bears (0-2) and the Bulldogs never trailed again.
Lewis pushed the pace and found open teammates and openings for himself at times. He finished with nine points and made half of his six shots. And his unselfishness spread to others.
Of the Bulldogs' 33 made shots, 23 came from a pass.
"I was really pleased with our guys' ability to share the ball," second-year Bulldog coach Chris Holtmann said. "Their willingness to share the ball. They made the right play even when the shot didn't go in. They made the right pass most of the time."
But there weren't a lot of shots that didn't go in.
Butler connected on 60 percent of their shots, while defensively, it limited Missouri State to less than 34 percent shooting.
"We're really looking for efficiency on both ends," Holtmann said. "You can be efficient some nights and the game is in the 60's. I couldn't care less about the points. We're going to play the way we want to play and try to be as efficient as we can be offensively and defensively."
Lewis continually penetrated the lane and when the Missouri State helped arrived, he saw cutting teammates for what he called "easy assists."
Butler junior forward Andrew Chrabascz was a frequent target of Lewis.
Chrabascz sophomore reserve forward Kelan Martin each finished with a game-high 18 points.
"Our relationship off of the court is just as important as on the court," Chrabascz said. "That's a big thing for us. You see it out there. We congratulate each other right away or if there is something we make sure we are able to hold each other accountable in that situation just because we have that type of relationship on and off the court."
Martin only missed one of his seven shots, while Butler senior wing Kellen Dunham didn't miss any (he was 4 for 4) en route to 11 points, as the Bears' strategy of playing him physical and tight early paid off. However, other Bulldog players stepped up in Dunahm's early absence as Butler built a 24-point halftime lead and never looked back
"To have 23 assists and eight turnovers really makes a coach proud," Holtmann said. "We're not going to score 144 (points) anytime soon (as Butler did Saturday against Citadel), I can tell you that. It remains to be seen, but when we're sharing it like we are, making shots, we've got some really good offensive players."
This article was written by Tom Davis from The News-Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.