INDIANAPOLIS – What transpired over the course of 40 minutes wasn’t really what was supposed to happen.
The plan was really to spotlight Butler’s two seniors during their final home game of their careers-and Kellen Dunham was committed to make that happen.
“We were talking about just looking for Khyle (Marshall) and Erik (Fromm) the whole night,” said the sophomore forward of the two seniors on the roster. “Giving them their attention throughout the night.”
Unfortunately for the original plan yet fortunate for Butler, it played out just a little differently. Dunham’s hot hand had a lot to do with that.
The forward from Pendleton Heights hit 11-of-14 shots from the floor and all seven three-pointers he took from the field en route to a game-high 29 points. While Marshall and Fromm made their contributions, it was Dunham’s that was the most eye-catching in a 71-54 win over Seton Hall Saturday night.
“When I see Kellen really lighting it up-which he does a lot-but tonight especially, you really try to hit his guys when he’s coming off curls and stuff,” said Fromm, who was happy to share the spotlight with his younger teammate. “You’re really trying to get him open and get him shots.”
That was the case early when Dunham did most of his damage as he hit all five threes he took in the first 20 minutes, hitting 7-of-9 from the field and scoring 19 points as the Bulldogs established a double-digit lead early.
The second half was just as good if not quite as productive as Dunham hit 4-of-5 shots and two-three pointers to help the Bulldogs build as much as a 24-point lead before finishing up 17 points ahead of the Pirates.
“Their (Seton Hall) 2-3 zone helped a little bit, really opened things up for me,” said Dunham of the shooting night. “My teammates were finding me. I was getting great screens this game, we really focused on that all week.”
For once it was positive things the Bulldogs could focus on after a rough first season in the Big East where they finished ten games under .500. But dominating wins over DePaul on Thursday and then Seton Hall on Saturday doubled the team’s conference win total and gives them some hope as they head to New York for the conference tournament.
Coincidentally, the Bulldogs will face the Pirates again on Wednesday to open up tournament play.
“We’re gaining confidence in what we are doing,” said head coach Brandon Miller of the team towards the end of the season. “I think guys have continued to believe in what we’re doing. Our system has stayed true and fundamentally we’ve gotten better and better and we’ve played better the past two games.”
That means a lot to Fromm and Marshall, who now have to continue winning to keep their college careers going. At least they guarantee their home finale would be successful in decisive fashion, with Marshall contributing 10 points while Fromm had nine to finish out their run at home.
“It’s hard to believe that we won’t be playing another game inside Hinkle Fieldhouse,” said a bit of an emotional Marshall after the game. “It’s very surreal, but it’s a magical moment. I happy that all of our fans and teammates were able to share this with us and our families.”
Even if they had to share the spotlight with someone whose senior night is still two years away.