Kellen Dunham scores 21 to lead No. 22 Butler past St. John's
Kellen Dunham and No. 22 Butler are getting a boost from this big run of games in the Big East.
"It's February in league play," coach Chris Holtmann said. "Both teams have something to play for, something significant, so I think emotions are certainly escalated."
Dunham had 21 points, including a sequence that led to five straight free throws, and seven rebounds to lead Butler over St. John's 85-62 on Tuesday night.
Alex Barlow scored 15 points and Andrew Chrabascz added 14 for the Bulldogs (17-6, 7-3), who have won four straight conference games.
Sir'Dominic Pointer had 19 points and six rebounds, and Rysheed Jordan scored 17 for the Red Storm (14-8, 3-6), who have lost three of four.
The game was tense at times. The Bulldogs responded well.
The Red Storm? Not so much.
Junior big man Chris Obekpa was ejected in the first half for hitting Butler's Tyler Wideman in the back of the head.
The Bulldogs went on a 14-2 run to start the second half and took a 50-30 lead when Dunham made five free throws with 16:28 remaining. He was fouled by Pointer on a 3-point try, and Pointer was given a technical when he protested the call.
"We were disappointed with our poise and our composure," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "We did not answer the bell. Other than Felix Balamou, there's really not a bright spot that I can amplify."
Balamou scored all six of his points during a stretch in the second half.
After slipping past the Red Storm 73-69 in their first matchup this season on Jan. 3, Butler wouldn't let St. John's get on a roll this time.
Phil Greene made a 3-pointer midway through the second half to get the Red Storm within 51-37, but Dunham answered with a 3 of his own. And when Jordan converted a three-point play, Barlow was fouled driving to the basket and finished his own three-point play to put the Bulldogs ahead 57-40 with 12:59 remaining.
"That is one thing we really emphasized," Dunham said. "Kind of coming out to start the second half and kind of punching them in the mouth."
In the first half, Obekpa was called for a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected at the 8:26 mark when he hit Wideman as they jogged down court. Wideman was assisted to the bench by trainers and later cleared to return.
Chrabascz made both free throws and Austin Etherington scored to give the Bulldogs a 19-9 lead midway through the first half.
"Those are huge swings," Lavin said. "We cut it to six, but maybe we'd be up six if we hadn't shot ourselves in the foot."
St. John's: Senior guard D'Angelo Harrison entered needing three points to reach 2,000 for his career. He got to the milestone on a free throw with 3:51 remaining in the first half, becoming the third player in St. John's history to score 2,000 points. Chris Mullin and Malik Sealy are the others.
Butler: The Bulldogs are 11-1 at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season. ... This was the first of three straight home games against Big East opponents.
FOCUS ON THE PAINT
Butler saw Obekpa's ejection as an invitation to score in the paint. Holtmann said once Obekpa left the game, the Bulldogs made a point to go inside. St. John's is in No. 1 in the Big East with 6.8 blocks per game and Obekpa leads the way as the top defender inside. Butler scored 46 points in the paint.