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Butler holds off SIU-Edwardsville with a big second half

Kellen Dunham tied his career-high scoring total en route to an 89-73 home victory for the Bulldogs

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The Butler Bulldogs (4-1) entered the second half with their foot on the accelerator, rolling past the visiting SIU-Edwardsville Cougars (1-4) over the final 20 minutes to an 89-73 home victory. Senior guard Kellen Dunham, who tied his career high with 32 points, kept the Bulldogs afloat through an uncharacteristically sloppy first half, and kept scoring at will even as his teammates came along in the second period. Dunham shot 5-of-8 behind the three point line on the night, adding six rebounds while connecting on 66 percent of his attempts overall.

It was an all-time Dunham performance, and unfortunately, the team needed it against a gritty SIUE squad that kept putting pressures on the Bulldog ballhandlers even in the game's waning minutes. For a team that has done a great job this season of taking care of the basketball, Butler coughed it up seven times in the first half (most of which came in the game's first few minutes), and some sloppy fouls put the Cougars in the bonus with nearly eleven minutes remaining inthe opening half. Five Bulldog players had to either sit or play through two fouls before halftime, including junior guard Tyler Lewis, who played just 25 minutes through foul trouble for nearly the whole game.

Once the came out of the locker room for the second half, however, it was a different game entirely. The Bulldogs were more aggressive inside, led by big men Andrew Chrabascz (12 points, five rebounds) and Tyler Wideman (13 points, five rebounds) while outscoring their first half points in the paint total 28-10. Senior Roosevelt Jones posted his third double-double in five games this season, finishing with 11 points, 11 assists and six rebounds. In the end, the entire Butler starting five put up double digits in the scoring column while Lewis rolled to 12 points and four assists despite battling the aforementioned foul troubles.

The Cougars kept the game close, and as the broadcasters mentioned in the waning minutes, this one really was a lot closer than the final score looked. Four SIUE players finished with double-digit scoring, led by Grant Fiorentinos, who had 15 of his 17 points in the first half. While their stingy defense fell off a bit in the second half, this is a long squad that kept things much more interesting than the 29-point spread before the game would have indicated.

Next up, the Bulldogs will travel into Xavier territory this week, taking on No. 24 Cincinnati on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. ET.