BY KYLE BEERY | SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR
Hinkle Fieldhouse reopened to a crowd of 8,600 as Butler men’s basketball returned with a 88-45 win over the University of Chicago Saturday night.
Fans took in all the new sights of Hinkle – a video scoreboard, 4,500 chair-back seats, and much more.
But after months of anticipation and the big reveal, it was finally time to play basketball.
The Maroons scored the first four points of the game before the Bulldogs went on a 21-3 run. But the Bulldogs tapered off, leading 35-23 at halftime.
The second half was a different story, as Butler outscored Chicago 53-22. Interim head coach Chris Holtmann, taking over for Brandon Miller who took a medical leave of absence, said the Bulldogs really settled in during the second half.
“We were all a little jumpy there early to start,” Holtmann said. “And that’s to be expected. It’s been a few months since we played. But I think once we played through that, I think our older guys in particular did an outstanding job.”
Holtmann said the team’s ball movement was good for a team taking the court for the first time in several months, and that is based off of recruiting unselfish players.
“You try to hope that spreads among your team,” Holtmann said. “That’s probably been one of the most noticeable things for us. There’s a lot of things we have to do a lot better, but sharing the ball right now, and passing to the open man, we’re doing a really good job of.”
Junior Kellen Dunham led the way for the Bulldogs with a game-high 18 points. Dunham was just 2-of-8 from the field and 0-for-4 from deep, with six points in the first half. He finished 6-of-13 and 2-of-7 from the field.
Junior Roosevelt Jones finished with eight points, eight assists, and five steals in his return to the team after sitting out the 2013-2014 season with a broken wrist and taking a medical redshirt.
“I’m very honored to play with Roosevelt every night,” Dunham said. “He’s a tremendous player, and an unselfish player.”
Holtmann said Jones played like he’s been practicing.
“He’s hungry, aggressive, physical, competitive on every possession,” Holtmann said. “He’s a physical presence out there on both ends, and you certainly need that with the level of competition we’re playing.”
Senior Kameron Woods had 12 points and nine rebounds. Holtmann said he’s also impressed with Woods’ physicality.
“I thought Kam was as physical as I’ve seen him,” Holtmann said.
Jones showed a new dimension to his game, handling the ball and making many flashy passes, including several lobs to Woods.
“With Rose out there, he brings a certain swagger to the team,” Woods said. “It’s toughness, and he can really deliver a good lob.”
Woods had four dunks on the night. That’s something he got taking notes from former Butler player Khyle Marshall over the last few years, Woods said with a chuckle.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get to his level, but that’s something that some of the guys on the team who can create [those plays], it gives me rooms to space the floor,” Woods said.
With Jones handling the ball more, it allows senior point guard Alex Barlow to be more of a spot shooter, which showed through Saturday as Barlow had 10 points, going 2-for-4 from three-point range.
“That’s been our plan from day one,” Holtmann said. “You’d love to be three deep at every position, and we need to continue to develop Jackson Aldridge at that position as well. But certainly, Rose gives us that added dimension, and even when they’re on the floor together, he will at times be the primary initiator of our offense.”
Holtmann said while Jones will continue to play that role, Barlow will still have that as his primary role.
Jordan Smith and Waller Perez paced Chicago, each with 11 points. The lone Indiana native on the Maroons’ roster, freshman Collin Barthel of Indianapolis’ Cathedral High School, started for Chicago, finishing with five points and seven rebounds.
Andrew Chrabascz also had 12 points and nine boards for the Bulldogs.
Butler’s Austin Etherington, a transfer from Indiana University who doesn’t have to sit out this season because he still has a year of eligibility after graduating early, had a bench-high 10 points.
Freshmen guard-forward Kelan Martin chipped in eight of the bench and Aldridge, the senior point guard had seven points. Freshman forward Jackson Davis got nine minutes of playing time. Butler’s third freshman, Tyler Wideman did not play because of a concussion, but Holtmann expects him to be back in action soon, once he’s cleared to play under concussion protocol.
Both of Butler’s sophomore walk-ons, Steven Bennett and Trey Pettus, saw playing time at the end of the game. Bennett, the New Castle native from Chrysler High School, hit a three-pointer with (time to go) much to the delight of the Hinkle crowd.
The Bulldogs have one more exhibition game Saturday, Nov. 8 at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Marian College. The regular season tips off the following Saturday, Nov. 15 against Maine.