Things got a little shaky at the end, but the Butler Bulldogs are 2-0 following a 70-67 win over Princeton Saturday night.
After a 33-31 halftime lead, the Bulldogs went on a 13-2 run to open the second half. That charge was led by sophomore guard Kellen Dunham.
Dunham finished the game with a career-high 26 points. He also dished out two assists and pulled down six rebounds. Dunham was 7-of-14 from the field, 4-of-8 from behind the arc and 8-of-11 at the free throw line.
Three other Bulldogs scored in the double figures, as freshman Elijah Brown scored 13 off the bench, junior Kameron Woods put in 11 and senior Erik Fromm had 10.
6-8 junior Denton Koon led the way for the Tigers with 21 points and four rebounds. Forward Hans Brase was the only other Princeton player in double figures.
Of much disgust to the Hinkle Fieldhouse crowd, the new “hand check rule” played a large role in the game. Butler had 27 fouls and Princeton had 21. The Bulldogs took more advantage of free throws, however, going 19-of-26 at the line while the Tigers were 23-for-37.
After Saturday’s game drug on and on, it is clear that the rule will drastically affect all of college basketball this year. Perhaps taking the biggest hit for Butler will be junior Alex Barlow, who is known for his tough defense and scrappiness. Barlow had four fouls on Saturday, and showed that he may need to cut back on his aggressiveness.
That rule could really affect the Bulldogs under first year head coach Brandon Miller, who showed a lot of emotion on the sideline, frequently complaining to the refs. Devontae Morgan and Brown each had four fouls as well. Fromm fouled out for the Bulldogs.
Perhaps the biggest reason was because it is taking away from the Bulldogs typical tough-nosed defense. As the game progressed, especially late in the second half, Butler’s defenders played a little looser trying to adapt to the refs, and it showed, as they saw a 67-56 lead with under 6:00 to go evaporate.
The Tigers cut the deficit to 69-67 before forcing an Elijah Brown turnover. They couldn’t convert, and put Dunham on the line for two shots. He made the first and missed the second one.
Brase came down with the rebound, but his half court heave was off the mark as time expired.
While the Tigers are a potential tournament team out of the Ivy League, they don’t have quite as much talent as last year with the departure of Ian Hummer. But the Tigers have potential to win the Ivy League, especially with their three-point ability.
The Tigers shot were 8-for-20 behind the arc Saturday, and 12-of-31 against Florida A&M. While not a great percentage, the Tigers have the ability to put up shots, especially with teams slacking because of the hand check rule.
Butler is in for another tough test as Vanderbilt visits Indianapolis Tuesday night. The Commodores are 2-0, averaging 83 points per game. They shoot just under 60 percent from the field and put up a 46.2 three-point percentage.
Butler won in Nashville 68-49 last December as a part of a home-and-home series. The Commodores are the marquee non-conference home game for the Bulldogs this year.
Tip off is at 6 p.m. from Hinkle Fieldhouse.