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No. 15/19 Butler Bulldogs to Host First-Time Foe Kennesaw State

 

#15/19 BUTLER (7-1) vs. KENNESAW STATE (3-6)
Monday, December 8, 7 p.m. (ET)
Hinkle Fieldhouse – Indianapolis, Ind.
TV: FOX Sports 1 (Cory Provus, Tarik Turner)
Radio: 1070 AM (Mark Minner, Nick Gardner)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The #15/19 Butler Bulldogs will take a three-game winning streak into a first-ever meeting with the Kennesaw State Owls on Monday, Dec. 8. The non-conference game at Hinkle Fieldhouse will tip at 7 pm. (ET) and will be televised nationally on FOX Sports 1.

Butler is looking to stretch a success streak that began with a victory over Georgetown in the third place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. The Bulldogs then picked up a road win at Indiana State, 77-54, four days after returning from the tropical holiday tournament, before adding a home win against Northwestern, 65-56, on Saturday (Dec. 6). The three victories lifted the #15/19 Bulldogs to 7-1 on the young season, including a 4-0 mark at home. Butler has 17 straight non-conference wins in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Kennesaw State, out of the Atlantic Sun Conference, is coming off its first home loss of the season, a 58-46 setback to Kent State on Saturday. That loss dropped the Owls to 3-6 on the year. Butler will have a week off following the game with Kennesaw State, before visiting Tennessee for a non-conference test on Sunday, Dec. 14.

Photo: Butler Athletics/Roosevelt Jones (John Fetcho)
Photo: Butler Athletics/Roosevelt Jones (John Fetcho)

The Bulldogs’ performance at the Battle 4 Atlantis earned Butler a spot in the Associated Press “Top 25” for the first time since 2012-13. Butler, ranked No. 23 a week ago, climbed to No. 15 in this week’s A. P. poll. The Bulldogs also moved in the USA Today Coaches Poll at No. 19. The last time Butler was ranked in both polls was on Feb. 25, 2013 (No. 20 in the A. P. poll and No. 21 in the coaches’ poll). Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” in seven of the past nine seasons.

Butler never trailed in its win over Northwestern, but the outcome wasn’t secured until the Bulldogs closed with an 8-2 run in the final three minutes of the contest. The game was tied five times in the first half, and Butler led by just three points, 57-54, with three minutes remaining. Junior guard Kellen Dunham hit a jump shot with 2:48 left on the clock to give the Bulldogs a five-point lead, and then senior guard Alex Barlow came up with a steal at mid-court and a lay-up to put Butler on top by seven. That sequence proved decisive. The Bulldogs held on with four free throws in the final 2:17. The victory was Butler’s fourth straight against a team from the Big Ten as the Bulldogs have won eight of their last ten games against teams from the Big Ten.

The Bulldogs again turned up the defense to nail down their home win against Northwestern. Butler limited the Wildcats to just five points in the final five minutes of the game to claim their seventh victory in eight outings. The Bulldogs also held Northwestern scoreless for the final two minutes of the first half to break a 28-28 tie and take a 34-28 halftime lead. Three days earlier, Butler held Indiana State to a season-low 54 points, 12 below the team’s season average. The Sycamores shot just 29.6% in the first half and 37.5% for the game. Butler has held seven of its first eight opponents under 60 points and all eight foes under 70 points. Butler currently leads the BIG EAST in scoring defense (54.6).

Junior Kellen Dunham attempted just nine shots against Northwestern, but still led all players in the game with 19 points. He hit six of the nine shots from the field, including his only three-point attempt, and he cashed six of six shots from the free throw line. That performance came just three days after he hit five of seven shots and shared the team scoring lead with 14 points at Indiana State. For the week, Dunham shot .688 (11-16) from the field, 1.000 (4-4) from beyond the three-point arc and .875 (7-8) from the free throw line. The 6-6 guard has had at least a share of Butler’s scoring lead in six of the first eight games this season. He was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Battle 4 Atlantis after leading the Bulldogs in scoring in two of the three games and finishing with a 14.7 average for the three games. Kellen Dunham is shooting with high efficiency during this winning streak, especially at home in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Dunham is shooting 60% from the field, 69% from three point range and 85% from the free throw line in Butler’s four home games this season, good for an average of 19 points. Dunham has shot 61.5% from the field and 60% from three-point range during Butler’s current winning streak. Kellen Dunham currently ranks fifth in the BIG EAST in scoring (16.4). He finished seventh in the conference a year ago. Dunham has scored in double-figures in all eight games this season and in 23 of his last 27 Butler games. Dunham also ranks third in the BIG EAST in three-point field goals (2.4).

In the Northwestern win, junior Roosevelt Jones gave Butler fans another glimpse of what they missed a year ago, when he was sidelined for the entire season with a wrist injury suffered during the Bulldogs’ summer tour of Australia. Jones played 38 minutes against Northwestern and finished with 12 points, six rebounds, a team-high four assists, a game-high three blocked shots and one steal. Earlier in the week, he shared Butler’s scoring lead with 14 points, while adding four rebounds and four assists, against Indiana State. Jones leads the team in assists, ranks second in scoring and rebounding, is tied for second in blocked shots and stands third in steals. The versatile 6-4 guard has had at least a share of the team lead in assists in all eight Butler games this season. Roosevelt Jones ranks third in the BIG EAST in assists (5.1). Jones was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll for his performance in Butler’s two games last week. He averaged 13.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the two wins.

Senior Kameron Woods led the Bulldogs in rebounding for the sixth time in eight games this season, finishing with a game-high nine rebounds against Northwestern. It was the fourth time this year that he recorded at least nine rebounds in a game. The 6-9 forward continued his climb on Butler’s all-time rebounding list, moving into the No. 9 spot with 692 career rebounds. He trails Joel Cornette (1999-2003) in the No. 8 spot on the all-time list by 20 rebounds, and he’s 27 boards away from the No. 7 position, currently held by Jon Neuhouser (1994-98). Woods has led Butler in rebounding in the past three victories and currently ranks third in the BIG EAST in rebounding (9.1).

Right before halftime of the Northwestern game, senior Alex Barlow came up with a steal and a conventional three-point play to give the Bulldogs a six-point halftime lead. At the time, it was one of the biggest plays of the game. He repeated that performance in the closing minutes of the contest, picking off a Northwestern pass and turning it into a lay-up for a 61-54 Butler lead. The 5-11 guard finished with a game-high four steals and boosted his career total for thefts to 133, which ranks seventh all-time at Butler. Alex Barlow ranks third in the BIG EAST in steals (2.5).

Austin Etherington, a graduate transfer from Indiana, has his top two career scoring performances (11 vs. Maine; 9 vs. Loyola Maryland) in his first four games in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season. Etherington has hit 10 of the 14 (71.4%) shots he’s attempted in Hinkle Fieldhouse. He’s hit three of six shots from three point range at home.

Butler is shooting 54.4% (117-215) in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season. The Bulldogs have won their first four home games this season by an average margin of 28.5 points. Butler is ranked second in the BIG EAST in scoring margin (+17.2), second in the BIG EAST in turnover margin (+5.3) and lead the BIG EAST and rank 15th in the NCAA Division I in three-point field goal percentage defense (.255).

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.

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