Dunham scores 28, leads Butler past No. 15 St. John’s
NEW YORK — Kellen Dunham put Butler in position to win, and then he put away St. John’s.
Dunham scored a season-high 28 points, including a pivotal 3-pointer with just more than 2 minutes left that helped the Bulldogs hold off the No. 15 Red Storm 73-69 on Saturday.
”My teammates just did a great job of screening for me,” Dunham said. ”I got the ball in the scoring areas a lot. The way that St. John’s guarded, I was able to find some openings in their zone.”
Alex Barlow added 15 points and Roosevelt Jones had 14 to help the Bulldogs (11-4, 1-1 Big East) split their tough road trip to begin conference play. Dunham, the team’s top scorer, was held to 10 points Wednesday in a loss at No. 6 Villanova.
The victory came one day after Butler removed the interim tag from Chris Holtmann’s title, making him the program’s new head coach.
D’Angelo Harrison matched his season high with 31 points for short-handed St. John’s (11-3, 0-2), which played its first game since second-leading scorer Rysheed Jordan left the team to deal with ”personal and family matters” back home in Philadelphia.
”It’s tough, of course, but our job is to compete every day,” Harrison said. ”We have to play with the group we have now.”
With the Bulldogs clinging to a two-point lead, Dunham pump-faked a defender to get free near the top of the key and drained a 3 that made it 64-59 with 2:05 remaining. Butler made nine of 10 free throws the rest of the way to seal it.
Dunham, a junior guard who entered third in the Big East in scoring at 16.1 points per game, finished 6 of 7 from behind the arc.
”He answered the bell just about every time,” Holtmann said.
In a game between two of the league’s top defensive teams, St. John’s struggled to find a consistent secondary scorer to complement Harrison. Phil Greene IV had 14 points and Chris Obekpa scored 11 with five blocked shots.
Sir’Dominic Pointer was 4 of 13 from the field. Neither team got a point from its bench.
”Jordan being out impacted the game,” Holtmann said.
St. John’s also was without lightly used backup guard Felix Balamou. He sat out with a sprained right ankle after getting hurt in practice, further diminishing a team already short on depth.
”When you’re going five guys, it’s difficult,” coach Steve Lavin said, adding that Jordan definitely won’t play Tuesday night against Villanova. ”It’s tough when you had a run with a certain rotation. It’s going to affect the flow and rhythm of the team.”
Barlow’s high, running floater trimmed Butler’s deficit to 30-26 at halftime, and the Bulldogs took charge with a 20-9 run to begin the second half.
Butler: It was Butler’s first game at Carnesecca Arena on the St. John’s campus. … The Bulldogs lost both meetings by an average of 21 points last season, their first in the reconfigured Big East. … Butler is 2-2 against ranked teams. … Dunham’s previous season high was 26 points against Chattanooga on Nov. 18. … Holtmann replaced Brandon Miller, who took a medical leave in October. Miller was promoted from assistant coach to head coach in July 2013 after Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics’ job.
St. John’s: Jordan is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team, St. John’s announced Friday. The 6-foot-4 sophomore guard, a highly touted recruit, ranked sixth in the Big East in scoring (14 points per game) and fourth in steals (2.1 per game). A preseason All-Big East second team selection, Jordan started the first five games of the season before committing nine turnovers in a loss to then-No. 10 Gonzaga. He had been coming off the bench since, but was averaging 29 minutes per game. He also missed a Dec. 22 win over Long Beach State with what the school said was the flu.
HARD TO COME BY
Butler became the first conference team to win a Big East road game this season.
St. John’s dropped to 7-1 at Carnesecca Arena, and 22-4 over the last three seasons.
Butler: Hosts Providence on Tuesday night.
St. John’s: Hosts No. 6 Villanova at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Wildcats coach Jay Wright will be going for his 300th win with Villanova (13-1, 1-1), coming off a 66-61 overtime loss at Seton Hall on Saturday. The Wildcats’ 13-game winning streak to start the season matched a school record. St. John’s leads the all-time series 60-49.