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No. 22/22 Butler Bulldogs Surge Past St. John’s

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The #22/22 Butler Bulldogs, looking for their fourth straight Big East Conference win, handled the St. John’s Red Storm with ease in a wild game Tuesday nigh (Feb. 3) at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Junior guard Kellen Dunham led a balanced Butler attack and the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half to hand St. John’s its biggest margin of defeat this season, 85-62. It was Butler’s fourth straight conference win, and it lifted the Bulldogs to 17-6 on the year and 7-3 in league play.

Dunham led four Bulldogs in double-figures with a game-high 21 points. Senior guard Alex Barlow added 15, sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz finished with 14 and junior guard Roosevelt Jones chipped in with 13. Senior forward Kameron Woods was close behind with nine points, and freshman guard Kelan Martin added seven points off the bench.

Butler shot 56.4% for the game and hit 19-of-25 (76%) free throws in what turned out to be a very physical game. The Bulldogs also had a commanding, 40-28, rebounding advantage, paced by the game-high, 12-rebound performance of Woods. The Bulldogs held the Red Storm to a 22-of-59 (37.3%) shooting performance in the game from the field, including a 3-of-18 (16.7%) night from three.

There were 36 fouls called in the game, including a pair of technical fouls and one Flagrant 2 foul called on St. John’s.

“This time of the year, every game is so important, and because of that emotions can run high,” said Butler Head Coach Chris Holtmann after the game. “I was impressed with our guys poise for the most part. There are things we still need to work on, but this was a very big win for us.”

Butler never trailed in the game and jumping out to a 15-6 lead. That margin increased to double-figures, following what turned out to be perhaps the key moment of the game with eight-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first half.

Photo: Butler Athletics/Kellen Dunham (John Fetcho)
Photo: Butler Athletics/Kellen Dunham (John Fetcho)

With the Red Storm in possession of the ball and tailing by just six points, St. John’s center Chris Obekpa was called for a Flagrant 2 foul after striking Butler freshman Tyler Wideman with an elbow to the back of the head. Obekpa, the leading shot-blocker and fourth-leading rebounder in the BIG EAST, was ejected from the game, and the Bulldogs scored four straight points to take a 19-9 lead.

St. John’s (14-8, 3-6 BIG EAST) trimmed two points off that margin by halftime, but the Bulldogs still went to the locker room with a 36-28 edge.

Butler then opened the second half with a 14-2 run to build a 20-point advantage, and the Red Storm was left to play catch-up. Dunham had ten of the 14 Butler points, including five straight free throws following a foul on a three point attempt and a technical foul on St. John’s Sir’Dominic Pointer.

“The opening part of the second half was really important,” stated Holtmann. “We came out and defended with a purpose.”

Kellen Dunham echoed that sentiment.

“We took it upon ourselves to come out strong,” said the junior guard, who wound up scoring 17 of his points after intermission.

St. John’s didn’t quit. The Red Storm, utilizing a full-court press, closed to within eight points, 70-62, with five-and-a-half minutes remaining, but the Bulldogs closed the contest with a 15-0 run to nail down the win.

The final score was Butler’s biggest margin of victory in a BIG EAST game this season. It also gave Butler four consecutive conference wins for the first time in the Bulldogs’ brief tenure in the league.

The win also gave the Bulldogs an 11-1 record in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.

Butler will continue its current home stand with a BIG EAST game against DePaul on Saturday, Feb. 7. It will be the first of two meetings between the two teams this season, and it was start at 3:30 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.

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