INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The #23/23 Butler Bulldogs picked up their second BIG EAST Conference win of the season on an emotional Saturday afternoon at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler honored the life and legacy of Andrew Smith with a pregame tribute and moment of silence before the tip. Senior G Kellen Dunham, Smith’s road roommate during the 2012-13 season, led Butler past the St. John’s Red Storm with a game high 24 points, including 4-7 from three, for the 78-58 victory. The Bulldogs are now 13-4 on the season and 2-3 in BIG EAST play. St. John’s falls to 7-12, 0-6 in BIG EAST play.
“Our guys recognize that we need to play better, but you never take a win for granted, especially a BIG EAST win,” said Butler Head Coach Chris Holtmann. “We are focused on learning both from our losses and our wins at this point in the season.”
An overall sloppy first half of basketball plagued the Bulldogs as Butler struggled to find its momentum over the Red Storm. Butler scored the first points of the game at the 19:06 mark. A blocked hook shot from the paint by junior F Andrew Chrabacz was corralled by sophomore F Tyler Wideman, who gathered and layed it in. Three straight misses from three-point range, including two from redshirt junior PG Tyler Lewis and one from Kellen Dunham, led to the Red Storm taking a 4-2 lead. Redshirt senior G/F Roosevelt Jones tied the game at four after an And-1 basket.
After committing two turnovers in the game, Kellen Dunham rattled off five straight Butler points, three from an And-1 layup and two more from the charity strip at the 12:51 mark. A free throw from sophomore G Kelan Martin, a three pointer from graduate transfer G Jordan Gathers and Andrew Chrabascz put Butler up 16-11 with 10:02 remaining in the first half. The Red Storm responded with five points to tie the game again at 16-16 with 8:32 remaining in the first half.
The Bulldogs took a 24-19 lead on a layup from Chrabascz with 4:32 left in the first half. St. John’s cut the lead to 24-21 following two free throws on an graduate transfer F Austin Etherington foul and then responded to an Andrew Chrabascz layup with two points to bring the Butler lead to three, 26-23, with 3:30 remaining in the first half. Thankfully for the Bulldogs, the back and forth nature of the game took a turn for the home team. After missing on his first three attempts, Kellen Dunham knocked down his first basket from three to put the Bulldogs up 29-23. With two more free throws from Kellen Dunham, Kelan Martin led the Bulldogs to a 10-0 run over the last 2:43 in the first half. Martin hit two from the free throw line and scored the last five points for Butler, including his first and only attempt from three with 23 seconds left before the half. The five straight makes from the field gave Butler the halftime lead over St. John’s, 39-25.
After committing only eight turnovers in their last game against Villanova, the Bulldogs coughed up 11 total first half turnovers, which led to 16 Red Storm points. The Bulldogs were able to cash in on seven points off of eight Red Storm first half turnovers. Despite weak handling and a poor shooting performance to start the game, the Bulldogs were able to stay alive thanks to their free throw shooting and dominant glass work. Butler connected on 11-14 (78.6%) shooting from the free throw line while St. John’s managed only 6-11 (54.5%) in the first. The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Red Storm, 23-11, including a 6-1 offensive rebound advantage, through the first. Butler shot 46.2% (12-26) from the field and 44.4% (4-9) from deep while St. John’s finished the first shooting 36% (9-25) and 1-9 (11.1%) from three.
Sophomore G Kelan Martin and senior G Kellen Dunham picked up right where they left off in the second half for the Bulldogs. After a three point bucket by St. John’s freshman G Federico Mussini to open the second half scoring, Kellen Dunham responded with a three of his own. Two more Kelan Martin baskets and another Kellen Dunham three was capped off by a two-handed ally-oop slam by Tyler Wideman on the block from Roosevelt Jones. The dunk put the Bulldogs up 55-38 with 12:30 remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs continued their hot shooting throughout the second half as Kellen Dunham knocked down his fourth three pointer of the afternoon with 3:42 remaining in the game. With the last of the starters subbing out at the 1:30 mark, sophomore F Jackson Davis put the finishing touches on the game with a jumper for the Bulldogs.
Butler finished the game shooting 48.1% (26-54) from the field, 43.8% (7-16) from three and 79.2% (19-24) from the free throw line. St. John’s continued their first half struggles and finished the game shooting 33.9% (19-56) from the field, only 19% (4-21) from deep and 59.3% (16-27) from the charity stripe. Although both teams pulled down 11 offensive rebounds, Butler won the board battle 42-31. Butler gave up 21 points on 19 turnovers while forcing 17 and scoring 13 off of St. John’s. Both teams logged nine steals.
Kelan Martin scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half while Kellen Dunham scored 12 of his 24 points, including three makes from deep, in the final stretch for Butler. Andrew Chrabascz finished with 13 points, including a 1-2 performance from deep. Mussini led the way for the Red Storm with 14 points as senior G Felix Balamou added 13.
A video tribute and moment of silence for Smith, the 2013 graduate and Academic All-American for Butler who was part of the two national championship game teams and passed away Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer, was observed prior to the tip. Fourteen members of Smith’s family were in attendance, including his parents and his wife, Samantha. Samantha spoke at halftime and thanked the Butler community for their support. The game was previously scheduled as the annual Stay Positive game, an organization dedicated to fighting cancer. Several fundraising initiatives today supported Samantha. The team wore #44 shooting shirts and a patch on their jerseys.
“We want to thank the Smiths for being here today,” said Butler coach Chris Holtmann, who presented Andrew’s father, Curt, with the game ball on the court following the win. “Whatever we could do today as a team to honor Andrew, we really wanted to do.”
The Bulldogs embark on a two-game road trip, traveling to #12 Providence Tuesday night followed by a Saturday contest at Creighton. Butler returns home on Jan. 27, hosting DePaul. The Tuesday match-up with Providence is a rematch of the team’s meeting on New Year’s Eve at Hinkle, one that the Friars captured 81-73. The tip is set for 6:30 p.m. on FS1.
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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