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No. 23/23 Butler Bulldogs Host St. John’s

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The #23/23 Butler Bulldogs host the St. John’s Red Storm on Saturday at noon inside Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs did not have a mid-week game, which is one of only two times this will happen during BIG EAST Conference play. Butler is ranked #23 in both national polls and sits at 12-4 on the season. The Bulldogs are 1-3 in BIG EAST play. St. John’s enters the contest at 7-11 (0-5 BIG EAST). The game will be televised on FS1 with Joe Davis and Dickey Simpkins on the call.

Butler and St. John’s meet for the sixth time in series history. St. John’s holds a 3-2 advantage. Four of the match-ups have come in the past two seasons as BIG EAST foes. The first meeting occurred in the 1958 NIT with St. John’s winning 76-69. The Red Storm also won both match-ups during Butler’s first season in the BIG EAST (2013-14). Butler swept the season series in 2014-15.

Last time out for Butler, redshirt senior G/F Roosevelt Jones scored 20 points and nearly spearheaded a come-from-behind win, but the Bulldogs fell, 60-55, to #11 Villanova Sunday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler took a 27-21 lead into the half and led 31-24 on a three-pointer from senior G Kellen Dunham just 87 seconds into the second half. That is when Villanova went on a 14-0 run to take a 38-31 lead with 13:27 remaining. On three occasions, Butler would trim the lead to a single point, but never re-took the lead. For the tenth time in 16 games this season, Butler committed 10 or fewer turnovers with only eight miscues against Villanova Sunday night. Butler leads the BIG EAST and ranks third nationally in turnovers per game (9.4). Butler also leads the conference and is tenth nationally in assist/turnover ratio (1.66).

Butler stand-out Andrew Smith passed away Tuesday (Jan. 12) morning after a two-year battle with cancer. Smith was a member of Butler’s basketball teams from the 2009-10 through 2012-13 seasons. He was a member of both national championship game teams (2010, 2011) and an Academic All-American. He is one of three players in program history to record both 100 wins and 1,000 career points. A memorial service is planned for Sunday. Butler will wear a uniform patch in tribute to Andrew for the remainder of the season. At Saturday’s game, a video tribute and moment of silence are planned.

Saturday’s game is also the third annual Stay Positive game, which is an organization founded by cancer survivor Eric Day. Proceeds from several in-game fundraisers will benefit the Smith Family.

Four BIG EAST teams, including #23 Butler, are ranked in both national polls. The Bulldogs have played the other three in the team’s first four BIG EAST contests of the season. Butler’s three conference losses are at the hands of Providence, Xavier and Villanova. After Saturday’s game with St. John’s, Butler will face Providence for the second time this season.

Redshirt senior G/F Roosevelt Jones scored the final 10 points of the game for Butler in Saturday’s narrow defeat to Villanova. He finished the game with a team-high 20 points on 8-of-14 (57.1%) shooting. It was his second 20-point game of the season, trailing only his 21 points in the win over Tennessee Dec. 12. He has scored in double figures in 14 of the team’s 16 games this season. He is second on the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game.

Roosevelt Jones is currently sixth in Butler career assists with 384 in his 3.5 seasons as a Bulldog and ranks tenth in rebounding with 708 career caroms. Jones is the only Butler player in program history to appear in the Top 10 lists for both rebounds and assists. With five steals at DePaul, he also broke into Butler’s Top 10 list in that category. Jones is also tied for 21st in career scoring with 1,311 career points.

The versatility of Jones is evidenced by being in the Top 10 in five BIG EAST statistical categories: third in steals (1.7), fourth in assists (4.6), sixth in assist/turnover ratio (2.4), ninth in scoring (14.6), and tenth in rebounding (7.0).

Roosevelt Jones had 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 69% for the season, including 27-of-32 over his last five games (and 83% in BIG EAST play).

Senior G Kellen Dunham has made nine of his last 15 (60%) from behind the arc, covering the team’s three most recent games. That is on the heels of missing 23 consecutive three-point attempts, by far the coldest stretch of his Butler career. Before the four-game stretch without a long ball, Dunham had at least one three-pointer in 26 consecutive games. His 247 career three-pointers are third on Butler’s all-time list.

Photo: Butler Athletics/Kelan Martin (Brent Smith)
Photo: Butler Athletics/Kelan Martin (Brent Smith)

Kellen Dunham has scored in double figures in all four career games against St. John’s, averaging 18.8 points per game. In two career contests with the Red Storm, Roosevelt Jones has scored 14 and 13 points, respectively.

In the last five minutes of games, Butler’s three starting guards are shooting a combined 88 percent (43-49) at the free throw line (Kellen Dunham, 14-15; redshirt junior PG Tyler Lewis, 17-19; Roosevelt Jones, 12-15). As a team, Butler shoots an even 75% from the charity stripe in the final five minutes of its games this season.

Despite starting only one contest this season, sophomore G Kelan Martin ranks third on the team in scoring at 13.5 points per game. He has led the team in scoring six times this season. Martin has scored in double figures 11 times this season. He has four 20-point games.

Through 50 games as the head coach at Butler, Chris Holtmann sports a 35-15 record, which is good for a .700 winning percentage. Of coaches who have been at the helm of Butler’s program for more than one season, only three (Harlan Page, Thad Matta and Brad Stevens) have a career winning percentage of .700 or better.

Offensively, Butler is among the national leaders in a variety of categories so far this season. (These statistics are through the games of Wednesday, Jan. 13). The Bulldogs are:

Third in Fewest Turnovers (9.4 per game)

Tenth in Assist/Turnover Ratio (1.66)

16th in Scoring Offense (84.6 points per game)

19th in Turnover Margin (+3.7) 24th in Scoring Margin (+13.9 per game)

26th in Field Goal Percentage (.488)

Butler leads the BIG EAST in scoring, field goal percentage, fewest turnovers committed, and assist/turnover ratio, while the Bulldogs are second in rebounding margin and turnover margin.

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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