INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Kellen Dunham kept trying to get free in the second half Saturday.
Everywhere he went, Butler’s top scorer found himself surrounded by Hoosiers.
Indiana’s defense limited Dunham to only five points over the final 20 minutes, and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Troy Williams spurred two big second-half runs to close out No. 23 Butler 82-73 in the Crossroads Classic.
“They did a great job defensively all game, but they changed some things up and went 2-3 (zone) and man and made it a little more difficult in the second half,” Dunham said after scoring 23. “It was nothing that we shouldn’t be able to handle.”
But the Bulldogs (8-3) didn’t handle it well.
While Butler had a chances after taking a 53-47 lead with 13:48 left in the game, it was done in by poor shooting.
The Bulldogs shot 39.1 percent from the field, went 3 of 16 on 3-pointers and were outscored 20-6 on fast breaks. Four players, including Dunham, scored in double figures. It still wasn’t enough to avoid blowing a second-half lead for the second straight game against a power-conference foe.
“They were just able to make a few more plays offensively in the second half that opened it up from a one or two-possession game to a three possession game,” interim coach Chris Holtmann said.
The biggest reason was the combination of Williams, who matched a career high with 22 points and set a career high with 11 rebounds, and Ferrell, who scored 12 of his 20 points during a 14-6 spurt that turned a six-point deficit into a 61-59 lead. Williams added four points in the decisive 10-0 flurry, which Ferrell closed out with a 3 to make it 76-65 with 3:08 to play.
Ferrell became the 48th member of Indiana’s 1,000-point club, achieving the feat in the same building, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where he won two state titles in high school. The Indianapolis native has 1,003 points.
Coach Tom Crean picked up career win No. 300 in his latest round with Butler, and Indiana headed home with another win over a ranked foe. The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten with 17 wins over ranked teams since 2011-12.
“I just wanted to be a little bit more aggressive in the second half,” Ferrell said after spending the first half in foul trouble. “I felt like there were a lot more drives in the second half and once we started knocking down a few shots, I felt like the game opened up for us.”
After Kameron Woods’ dunk gave Butler the 53-47 lead with 13:48 to go, Ferrell countered with 12 points in a 14-6 run that gave Indiana a 61-59 lead.
Williams started the next big run with four quick points. Ferrell closed out that flurry with a 3-pointer that gave Indiana an 11-point lead — its biggest of the game.
Butler answered with six straight points to get within five, but the Hoosiers’ defense clamped down and Ferrell finished it off at the free-throw line.
Indiana: James Blackmon Jr. came into Saturday as the nation’s top freshman scorer at 19.2 points per game. But his struggles were so bad that he started the second half on the bench. Blackmon finished 2 of 12 from the field and had only five points.
Butler: The Bulldogs came into Saturday as the only unbeaten team in the first three years of an event that pits Indiana’s four biggest basketball programs against one another. Butler went home 3-1 in the Classic and fell to 9-3 all-time at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Butler wasn’t just off the mark when shots were contested, it also struggled from the free-throw line. It’s become a disconcerting trend. The Bulldogs went into the game shooting just 65.6 percent from the line this season. They finished 16 of 23 Saturday.
Are the Hoosiers erasing some of the doubts about its inside game? Perhaps. Indiana held up well inside against a team known for its rebounding prowess. On Saturday, the Hoosiers had a 45-35 rebounding advantage and finished with six blocks, four from Hanner Mosquera-Perea.
Indiana hosts New Orleans on Monday.
Butler hosts Tennessee-Martin on Monday.
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