INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The Butler Bulldogs return to Hinkle Fieldhouse to host the #5/4 Xavier Musketeers in a BIG EAST Conference game on Saturday afternoon. The game is scheduled to tip at 2:30 PM on FOX with Gus Johnson, Jim Jackson and Molly McGrath. It can also be heard at 1070 AM, 93.5 FM and the TuneIn Radio App with Mark Minner and Nick Gardner. The Bulldogs have won four of its last five and three straight BIG EAST games. Butler enters the game with a 17-7 overall record and 6-6 in BIG EAST play. Xavier is 21-3 (9-3). This is the second meeting of the season between the two schools.
Butler and Xavier are recent BIG EAST rivals, but have a long-standing series that dates back to a single season together in the Atlantic 10 as well as time together in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League). Xavier leads the all-time series, 36-18, and has won three straight, including the first meeting this season.
Last time out for the Bulldogs, redshirt senior G/F Roosevelt Jones hit a contested driving runner with 20 seconds to play gave Butler a four-point lead and iced an impressive 81-75 road win over Seton Hall Wednesday night in Newark. Sophomore G Kelan Martin added 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead scored 23 points on 8-of-8 shooting (including seven three-pointers) in the first half Wednesday in Newark. It was the most points scored in a half by a Butler opponent this season. The Butler defense, led by Roosevelt Jones, limited Whitehead to 0-of-6 shooting in the second half. Whitehead posted three free throws for a 26-point performance. Butler out-rebounded Seton Hall, 31-26, Wednesday. Seton Hall entered the contest averaging the most rebounds per game in BIG EAST play. After being out-rebounded by its first four BIG EAST opponents, the Bulldogs have responded by out-rebounding six of its last eight conference foes. Butler is 14-1 this season and 34-6 under coach Chris Holtmann when out-rebounding its opponent.
Butler scored 81 points Wednesday at Seton Hall. It was the third straight game that the Bulldogs have scored at least 80 and the 11th time this season hitting that threshold. The current three-game run marks the three times in BIG EAST play that Butler has registered 80 or more. The Bulldogs also shot 56% in the contest, its high for a BIG EAST game this season and the ninth time this season making at least 50 percent of its shots. Butler’s 81.5 points per game average leads the BIG EAST and is 23rd nationally.
Five Bulldogs scored in double figures at Seton Hall. It marked the seventh time this season that at least five Bulldogs registered 10 or more points. A season-high seven players had at least 10 against The Citadel in the season-opener. Prior to the Seton Hall game, the last time Butler had five in double figures was the first match-up with Xavier on Jan. 2. Eight of the 12 players who have seen action this season have posted a game in double figures. Butler has three of the top 12 scorers in the BIG EAST.
Xavier shot 56% from the field to down visiting Butler, 88-69, Jan. 2 at the Cintas Center. The #6 Musketeers utilized five players in double figures. A late 9-2 run in the first half gave Xavier a 45-35 halftime advantage, but the Bulldogs chipped away at that lead early in the half. A three-pointer by senior G Kellen Dunham with 12:29 to play cut Xavier’s led to just three at 55-52, but the home team would respond with 13 of the next 14 points.
Xavier is the 15th team ranked in the “Top 10” to visit Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Musketeers are the highest-ranked team to visit Butler’s homecourt since Feb. 23, 1981, when the Bulldogs hosted #3 DePaul. Butler last defeated a “Top 10” opponent at home Jan. 19, 2013, when the Bulldogs defeated #8 Gonzaga, 64-63. The Bulldogs also have “Top 10” wins at home over #3 Michigan (79-64, 1965-66) and #5 Tennessee (81-66, 1958-59).
In two games a season ago, junior F Andrew Chrabascz averaged 17.5 points per game against Xavier. He added 10 points in this season’s first match-up. Kellen Dunham had 17 against XU in the 2015 BIG EAST Tournament and the first double-double of Roosevelt Jones’s career came against Xavier on Dec. 7, 2011. Redshirt junior PG Tyler Lewis (2014 NCAA Tournament) and graduate transfer G Jordan Gathers (three games in Atlantic 10 play) suited up against Xavier while playing for North Carolina State and St. Bonaventure, respectively.
Junior F Andrew Chrabascz had six assists Wednesday at Seton Hall, just off his career-high eight in the season-opening win against The Citadel. Butler is 11-2 in games when Chrabascz has two or more assists. Chrabascz is third on the team in assists.
Senior G Kellen Dunham is shooting 52% from behind the arc in the team’s BIG EAST games (33-64). In BIG EAST games, Dunham’s 2.8 three-pointers per game and .516 three-point percentage both lead the BIG EAST. Kellen Dunham’s season average of 88% at the free throw line is second in the BIG EAST and is 15th in the country. Dunham made his 100th career start Wednesday at Seton Hall. He has scored in double figures 91 times as a Bulldog.
Kellen Dunham entered the season ranked 14th on Butler’s all-time scoring list. After 23 games this season, Dunham now stands in sixth with 1,797 points. Next on the list is Lynn Mitchem (1,798) and A.J. Graves (1,807).
Redshirt senior G/F Roosevelt Jones is the only player in Butler history to rank in the Top 10 in both career rebounds and assists. Jones currently ranks fifth in both categories with 426 assists and 761 rebounds. He is also eighth in career steals (139) and 15th in career scoring with 1,420 career points.
The versatility of Jones is evidenced by being in the Top 15 in eight BIG EAST statistical categories: second in steals (1.8), fourth in assists (4.8), fifth in minutes (33.1), seventh in assist/turnover ratio (2.0), tenth in rebounding (6.9), 12th in scoring (14.3), 13th in offensive rebounding (2.0), and 14th in field goal percentage (.498).
Roosevelt Jones has improved from the free throw line in each season, and his gains for 2015-16 are the largest to date. In his first three seasons, Jones shot .500, .552, and .606. Currently, he’s shooting 72% for the season, including 80 percent in BIG EAST play. Jones tied a career-high nine free throws Feb. 2 against Georgetown as Butler went 31-of-38 from the charity stripe. The 31 makes and 38 attempts were both season-highs. Roosevelt Jones has 125 career starts. Matt Howard has the Butler record with 133 career starts.
Over his last four games, sophomore G Kelan Martin is averaging 25.8 points per game. He has led the Bulldogs in scoring in all four contests. He started the stretch with a (then) career-high of 27 points at Marquette Jan. 30. Three nights later, he bettered that with 35 points against Georgetown. For his efforts, he was recognized as the BIG EAST Player of the Week (announced Feb. 8). It is his second Player of the Week nod this season and the fourth time a Butler player has earned the recognition.
Martin’s 35 points were the highest single-game scoring performance in a BIG EAST game this season until Providence’s Ben Bentil had 42 in a double-OT game Wednesday. The 35 points are the most by a Butler player since Matthew Graves scored 42 points Jan. 15, 1998 against Cleveland State.
As a team, Butler is shooting a respectable 74% from the free throw line this season. In conference play, four of Butler’s starters each are shooting 80% or better at the line, led by Kelan Martin at an .852 clip in BIG EAST games.
Butler leads the BIG EAST and ranks 19th nationally in turnovers per game (10.5).
Chris Fultzis asenior writerfor the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler Athletics and has full media access. Follow @CafultzISRand 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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