KYLE BEERY | Sports Reporter
The Butler men’s basketball team has hit a skid. After an 8-1 start, the Bulldogs have dropped two straight.
The unranked Indiana Hoosiers topped the No. 23 Bulldogs 82-73 in the first game of the Crossroads Classic Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Bulldogs used an 11-1 run at the end of the first half to head into the break tied at 38. Junior Kellen Dunham made the last seven points of the half to give the Bulldogs the momentum heading into the break.
Butler held Indiana’s two stars in check in the opening period. Junior guard Yogi Ferrell went scoreless, while freshman standout James Blackmon, Jr. had just two points.
Where the stars were lacking, sophomore forward Troy Williams stepped up. Williams had 12 points in the first half and went on to finish with a team-high 22. Ferrell picked up the slack in the second half, however, finishing with 20.
Dunham finished with a game-high 23 points, scoring just five in the second half. Dunham was held scoreless over the last 11:30 of the game.
Butler interim coach Chris Holtmann said the Bulldogs were able to hang around, but had a little trouble with Indiana changing defenses.
“They changed defenses a little bit, and we’re going to have to handle that a little bit better,” Holtmann said. “I think that they made us stand around a little bit there in the guts of the game there late in the second half, so I think that neutralized Kellen a little bit, but having said that, we’ll make those plays we need to and I’ve got to do a better job of freeing him up and getting him better looks.
Dunham said the Hoosiers were great defensively the entire game.
“They changed one or two things, so that made it a little bit difficult in the second half, but nothing that we shouldn’t be able to handle,” Dunham said.
Second half slump
Butler had its largest lead of the game at 53-47 with 13:48 to go before the Hoosiers went on a quick 12-4 run.
Holtmann said he thought his team played great in spurts, but wasn’t able to capitalize when it mattered.
“I just thought they were able to make a few more plays there offensively in the second half that opened it up from a one or two possession game to a three possession game.”
Indiana opened a 76-65 lead with just over three minutes to play. On the next possession sophomore Andrew Chrabascz hit a three pointer. Junior Roosevelt Jones hit a layup, followed by a Chrabascz free throw to get the Bulldogs within two possessions.
Indiana held a 78-73 lead with 50 seconds to play when the Bulldogs forced two straight timeouts by Tom Crean on inbounds plays. Ferrell hit two free throws to extend the lead to seven, and Butler failed to score the rest of the way out.
Saturday’s loss was Butler’s first loss in the Crossroads Classic, and Indiana’s first win since defeating Notre Dame in 2011.
Chrabascz finished with 14 points. Senior Kameron Woods had 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Hoosiers outrebounded the Bulldogs 48-40 Saturday.
“I think any time you talk about rebounding, that’s something I take credit for, so in the first half, I know I didn’t do my job as well as I can getting guys off the glass,” Woods said. “I think overall, Indiana as a team just tries to be as physical as possible to try and get more defensive rebounds.”
The Bulldogs were outrebounded on the defensive glass by Tennessee in Sunday’s 67-55 loss at Knoxville. Woods said the Bulldogs are vulnerable if teams can start to game plan around the defensive glass.
“That’s something we’ve talked about all week and it’s something we’re going to have to shore up because that’s the word out on us right now,” Woods said.
Jones finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Transfer Austin Etherington put up two points against his former team.
The Hoosiers’ bench outscored the Bulldogs’ bench 24-11.
“We have to continue to lengthen our bench; we’re particularly thin in the guard position,” Holtmann said.
Butler’s next game is Monday night at home against Tennessee-Martin. Indiana also plays Monday night, hosting New Orleans at Assembly Hall. The Bulldogs open Big East play on the road at Villanova on New Year’s Eve, while the Hoosiers travel to Nebraska to open its Big Ten schedule the same day.