INDIANAPOLIS, IN – After a disappointing performance to close out 2014, the Butler Bulldogs opened the New Year with an impressive 73-69 win over the #15/17 St. John’s Red Storm on Saturday (Jan 3). Junior guard Kellen Dunham sparked a second half comeback and Butler held on at the free throw line down the stretch to beat #15/17 St. John’s in Butler’s first trip to Carnesecca Arena. The BIG EAST road victory lifted the Bulldogs to 11-4 on the season and 1-1 in conference play.
Dunham scored half of his season-high 28 points in the final 20 minutes to help the Bulldogs overcome a 30-26 halftime deficit. He had a season-high six three-point field goals in the win, the biggest of which came with 2:05 remaining after St. John’s had cut Butler’s lead to 61-59.
The Bulldogs then held off the nationally-ranked Red Storm by hitting nine of 10 free throw attempts in the final 1:47. Senior forward Kameron Woods hit four free throws in that stretch, Dunham and senior guard Alex Barlow each had two and sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz added one.
“I’m really proud of our guys. Just scroll across the bottom line and see how hard road wins are to come by in conference play,” said Butler Head Coach Chris Holtmann. “Our guys put more quality possessions together in the second half, than we did in the first half. I think St. John’s is going to continue to have a terrific year, so this certainly is a really good win for our program.”
Butler trailed by seven points, 11-4, early in the first half, but back-to-back three-point field goals by Dunham and a short jumper by junior guard Roosevelt Jones erased that deficit and gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the contest.
The game remained close until St. John’s (11-3, 0-2 BIG EAST) unleashed an 8-0 run to grab a 30-24 lead with 1:35 left in the opening period. A short floater in the lane by Barlow right before the first half buzzer trimmed the home team’s lead to four points at halftime.
Butler then opened the second half with a 12-3 run to take the lead for good. Barlow had five of the 12 points, Dunham had four and Chrabascz added three.
St. John’s ramped up its pressure in the final period, but the Bulldogs answered each run by the Red Storm to hold on to the “Top 25” win.
“It was really critical,” Holtmann said of the Bulldogs’ second half performance against the St. John’s pressing defense. “They force you into difficult shots, and they get their hands on a ton of balls.”
Butler’s offensive balance picked up in the final period. In addition to Dunham’s output, the Bulldogs picked up 11 points from Barlow and eight points each from Jones and Chrabascz in the final 20 minutes. Barlow finished with 15 points, while Jones had 14. Woods had eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds, and Chrabascz added eight points.
D’Angelo Harrison of St. John’s led all scorers with 31 points. The Red Storm picked up 14 points from Phil Greene IV and 11 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots from Chris Obekpa.
The win was Butler’s second this season over a team ranked in the “Top 25.” In November, the Bulldogs defeated #5/6 North Carolina at the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Bulldogs also became the first team to record a BIG EAST road victory in 2014-15.
Butler will return home to host Providence on Tuesday, Jan. 6. That game at Hinkle Fieldhouse will start at 9 p.m. (ET).
Chris Fultz is a senior writer for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler Athletics and has full media access. Follow @CafultzISR and the @IndySportsRep on Twitter.
Chris Fultz is a Senior Writer and the Butler Athletics beat writer for the Indiana Sports Report. Chris Fultz is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler University Athletics and has full media access.
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