Wednesday, January 6, 2016

24 for 24: Dunham leads Butler past DePaul, 77-72

                                     Photo Credit: Geno Green

Sometimes, being humbled can improve a person's perspective on life.

For Butler's Kellen Dunham, a 10-of-60 effort from the field in a five-game stretch earned him a trip off the starting lineup at Xavier on Jan. 2.

After coming off the bench and going 3-of-5 from long range in a 88-69 loss at Xavier last Saturday, Dunham returned to the starting lineup and scored a game-high 24 in Butler Bulldogs' (12-3, 1-2 BIG EAST) 77-72 win on the road at the DePaul Blue Demons (6-9, 0-3 BIG EAST), Tuesday night.

"Kellen was really efficient, but he knows if we are going to be good, he will have to rebound the ball better," Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. "Kellen had no turnovers and his teammates did a nice job of getting the ball to him at the right time."

Despite putting together an eclectic performance, Dunham deferred to his teammates.

"Playing with guys like Roosevelt and Tyler, they make my life better and help me get great looks," Dunham said.

Dunham also shot 8-of-14 from the field and 4-of-7 from three-point range, highlighted by a triple from the wing to give Butler a 72-65 lead with 1:44 left.

Roosevelt Jones put together another solid effort on both sides of the ball with a game-high five steals, to go along with 15 points, on 5-of-11 shooting.

Butler benefited from DePaul's inability to handle the ball at certain moments as it scored 24 points, off nine turnovers and coach Dave Leitao knows the mistakes must be reduced.

"Butler went zone at the end of the first half and I thought we handled it well, but they switched to zone again in the second half and we got stagnant and didn't handle it as well," Leitao said. 

"When defenses can read you and when you catch the ball and put it above your head, that means you become passive. When that happens, your defense starts to leak and [Butler] started to drive the ball and kick out more for threes." 

DePaul's leading scorer Billy Garrett Jr. failed to get into any rhythm as he scored nine points, but finished with three turnovers and one assist in 25 minutes.

"We don't have a large margin of error and can't play musical chairs with our performance," Leitao said. "Billy didn't have a great game from the outset and wasn't pushing it and dictating the pace and as a result, didn't play well on offense or defense."

Game Recap:

After Myke Henry's jumper to open the scoring for DePaul, Butler would rattle off a 10-0 run, highlighted by two steals from Jones and two long-range makes from Dunham.

The Bulldogs' first half lead would rise to 21-10 before the Blue Demons countered with triples from Henry and Eli Cain.

Despite a 6-1 run by DePaul to close the half, Butler would inch into the locker room with a 35-34 advantage.

The Blue Demons took a 36-35 lead on Tommy Hamilton's free-throw makes, but the advantage would be short-lived as Andrew Chrabascz's layup on the other end put the Bulldogs back up by one.

The layup would help spearhead a Butler 7-0 which lasted 1:15.

DePaul would counter and go on a 12-2 run, highlighted by back-to-back layups by Darrick Wood to go ahead 48-44.

With DePaul in the lead and the crowd on its feet, sensing another run, Butler's Kelan Martin silenced the fans with a thunderous dunk on Wood and was fouled and completed the three-point play to pull to 50-49.

Not long after the three-point play, Butler found its backs against the wall again at 55-50 and would counter with a 7-0 run.

"I was so pleased with how we responded with the run we made in the second half," Holtmann said. "I am proud of [Kellen and Roosevelt], who were the ones that brought it home down the stretch."

The Blue Demons were unable to regain the lead as the Bulldogs survived for a five-point win and their first conference win of the season.

Looking Ahead:

On Jan. 9, DePaul travels to Washington, D.C., to take on Georgetown for an 11 a.m tip on FS1.

The Hoyas defeated the Blue Demons, 70-58 on Dec. 30.

Butler will host No. 11 Villanova on Jan. 10 at 6:30 p.m. on FS1. 

The Bulldogs will play their third ranked opponent in four conference games.

Holtmann knows the grind of the BIG EAST schedule is no walk in the park, regardless of the quality of opponent.

"I can honestly tell you that every league game is hard and we knew the DePaul game would be a dog fight," Holtmann said. 

"As soon as you take a breather, you will get beat and in some cases, you will get embarrassed. We accept the fact that each night will be a grind."

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