After jumping out to an early 40-27 lead at the end of the first half, the Butler Bulldogs had to hold off a second half rally from the visiting DePaul Blue Demons to seal the 83-73 victory at home. The win marked Butler's fifth straight and seventh in the last eight games, and will most likely vault the Bulldogs into the Top 20 in Monday's AP poll. We'll break the game down further for both teams in the coming days, but for now, here's three things we learned:
1. Butler's "Big Three" leads the charge
Junior guard Kellen Dunham was the game's leading scorer for the Bulldogs, dropping 24 points while connecting on four his nine attempts from deep. However, teammates Roosevelt Jones (20 points, three rebounds) and Andrew Chrabascz (16 points, three rebounds, one awesome block late in the second half) weren't far behind. I know it's a cliche term, but the trio really has broken out as a "big three" over the last few games as the team establishes an inside-outside offense.
Dunham spoke briefly in the post-game press conference about how his teammates have helped him create some space to operate on the perimeter, and Chrabascz's stretch of success is definitely forcing teams to cover the middle more than in the past. All three have had huge games individually throughout the season, but the team's been most successful when they can get nice performances from all of them.
2. Jamee Crockett ignites a rally
DePaul's Crockett basically single-handedly sparked the Blue Demons back into the game after trailing by as many as 18 with 16 minutes left in the second half. The senior forward dropped all 14 of his points in the second period, hitting a pair of three's on 5-of-12 shooting overall. He was tremendous defensively at certain points, containing Dunham as his team cut the lead all the way down to five before the Bulldogs opened things up again. I know it's fun to poke fun, but DePaul certainly doesn't deserve their punchline status, and they never go down easily. Credit Crockett for kick-starting the team today, even as Butler sealed it down the stretch.
3. Alex Barlow does the little things
While the aforementioned "Big Three" does the bulk of the scoring for the Bulldogs, it's also important to remember what players like Barlow do for the team, even when they're not popping up in the points category. The senior guard had all eight of his points in the second half, including a pair of three's that kept the Bulldogs afloat amidst the DePaul rally, but it was his eight assists, four rebounds and four steals that really stand out. He's the ultimate hustle player, chasing down loose balls, taking on much larger players on defense and showing off some impressive handles while breaking down his man offensively.
Throw Kameron Woods in this category too. Woods is the Big East's leading rebounder, and while he had a quiet seven points today, he grabbed another eight rebounds to add to his total. Teams will most likely focus on Dunham, Jones and Chrabascz defensively, but Barlow and Woods have been terrific at doing the little things that can make all the difference.