MATTHEW VANTRYON | STAFF REPORTER
Butler defeated Purdue 76-70 to move to 3-0 all-time in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Bulldogs (8-2) needed buzzer beaters to win contests in the Crossroads Classic in the past two seasons, but that would prove unnecessary Saturday.
Sophomore guard Kellen Dunham led the way with 25 points. Senior forwards Khyle Marshall and Erik Fromm added 18 and 14 points, respectively.
An aggressive Boilermaker offense jumped out to a 17-9 lead in the first half. The Bulldogs committed four turnovers in the first six minutes of the contest, and struggled to find rhythm on the offensive end.
However, a 12-2 Butler run gave them a 21-19 lead. The Bulldogs would widen their lead to as many as eight with just over three minutes to go in the half. Butler went into the locker room with a 36-33 lead after the Boilermakers (8-3) hit a desperation buzzer beater to cut the lead to three.
The Bulldogs relied heavily on Dunham and Marshall in the first half, who combined for 26 of Butler’s 36 points in the opening period.
Butler had zero bench points in the first half. Freshman guard Elijah Brown’s layup with just over 11 minutes to go in the game accounted for Butler’s first bench points.
In comparison, Purdue had 17 bench points in the half. Brown’s nine points were the only points off the bench for Butler.
Butler coach Brandon Miller said the decision to rely on starters depends on the situation.
“There are going to be games where certain guys play heavier minutes and there are going to be games where we’re going to utilize our bench and hopefully our bench can come in and produce like they have in some of the games early on in the season,” Miller said.
Purdue played the role of the aggressor to begin the second half, and used a 10-1 run to jump out to a 43-37 lead. Butler failed to score a field goal in the opening four minutes of the half.
However, Butler did not go away. A 7-0 run highlighted by a Dunham three-point basket gave the Bulldogs a 44-43 lead with just over 14 minutes to go in the contest.
A Dunham three with over four minutes to go gave Butler a 62-53 lead. Marshall extended the lead into double-digits by hitting the front end of a one-and-one.
Butler looked to be on its way to an easy win after a three-point basket gave the team a 16-point lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Purdue wouldn’t go quietly. The Boilermakers cut the lead to four with 20 seconds remaining.
Butler turned the ball over twice on inbounds plays. Miller said he attributes it to increased physicality.
“When you’re up, the game gets more physical,” Miller said. “We have to be better down the stretch in terms of executing getting the ball in bounds and taking caring of the ball.”
Brown was able to hit two free throws to give the team a 76-70 lead with 13 seconds to go.
Purdue missed a pair of three-point opportunities and Butler escaped with the win.
Butler was able to capitalize on the Boilermakers miscues, scoring 25 points off 18 Purdue turnovers.
Marshall said the win proves that Butler is here to stay.
“It shows a lot of fight in our guys, it shows how tough we can be,” Marshall said. “From day one I knew were going to be a team that could compete in this conference, and tonight just assured that.”
Butler will have the week off before traveling to Evansville next Saturday. Tip-off is set for 3:05 p.m EST.