After trailing by as many as eleven in the first half, the Butler Bulldogs rallied behind big performances from Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham to defeat the visiting Belmont Bruins 67-56 in their last non-conference game of the regular season. The win lifts the Bulldogs to 10-3 on the year, including a perfect 6-0 at home.
Before we get into the numbers, this was a GREAT win for the Bulldogs. They excelled in the areas that can't be described in a box score, showing great patience after a slow offensive start, rallying back at the end of the first half, making adjustments out of timeouts and playing physical defense all game long. This Belmont squad can be an offensive nightmare for teams, and interim coach Chris Holtmann was impressive yet again in designing the schematics for his team.
That being said, they were also pretty great in the areas of the game that CAN be measured in the box score. I know I've been critical of Roosevelt Jones at times this year, but the guy was marvelous today. Jones scored a game-high 20 points on 8-12 shooting, and added seven rebounds and three assists during the game. Throw in Kellen Dunham's production today (15 points, 4-6 from 3-point range, five rebounds), and Butler got two of their best individual performances of the season from their two best players.
The team started out the first half in a bit of rut, struggling to keep up with Belmont's fast-paced ball movement while finding open looks behind the arc. After trailing by eleven, the Bulldogs tore into the deficit after increasing their physicality on the perimeter on defense and dominating the offensive boards. Flipping the script over the closing minutes of the half, Butler took a one-point lead into the half.
The Bulldogs would end up winning the rebounding margin 38-21, including a 15-7 advantage on the offensive boards. Freshman Tyler Wideman had his breakout performance of the season so far, leading the team with nine rebounds while adding seven points off the bench. Kelan Martin has been Butler's star youngster so far, but today was all about Wideman. He was terrific.
Belmont was led by star guard Craig Bradshaw, who finished with eleven points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star reported before the game that scouts from the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers were in the audience today, and it wouldn't be shocking to find out that they were there to see Bradshaw. The Bulldogs held him in check for most of the game, adding to an already impressive defensive performance.
The Bulldogs will open conference play on Wednesday, Dec. 31, on the road at Villanova. That game will tip off at 2:30 p.m. as a part of Fox Sports 1's Big East New Years Eve Marathon.