NEW YORK (AP) — Kellen Dunham scored a season-high 28 points, including a pivotal 3-pointer with just more than 2 minutes left that helped Butler hold off No. 15 St. John’s 73-69 on Saturday.
Alex Barlow added 15 points and Roosevelt Jones had 14 to help the Bulldogs (11-4, 1-1 Big East) split their tough road trip to begin conference play. Dunham, the team’s top scorer, was held to 10 points Wednesday in a loss at No. 6 Villanova.
The victory came one day after Butler removed the interim tag from Chris Holtmann’s title, making him the program’s new head coach.
D’Angelo Harrison matched his season high with 31 points for short-handed St. John’s (11-3, 0-2), which played its first game since second-leading scorer Rysheed Jordan left the team to deal with “personal and family matters” back home in Philadelphia.
After winning 11 of their first 12 games for the first time since 1985-86, it’s been a disappointing start to league play for the Red Storm, who had won seven straight before a 78-67 loss Wednesday at Seton Hall.
With the Bulldogs clinging to a two-point lead, Dunham pump-faked a defender to get free near the top of the key and drained a 3-pointer that made it 64-59 with 2:05 remaining. Butler made nine of 10 free throws the rest of the way to seal it.
Dunham, a junior guard who entered third in the Big East in scoring at 16.1 points per game, finished 6 of 7 from behind the arc.
In a game between two of the league’s top defensive teams, St. John’s struggled to find a consistent secondary scorer to complement Harrison. Phil Greene IV had 14 points and Chris Obekpa scored 11 with five blocked shots.
Sir’Dominic Pointer was 4 of 13 from the field as St. John’s dropped to 7-1 at Carnesecca Arena on campus, and 22-4 over the last three seasons.
Neither team got a point from its bench.
St. John’s also was without lightly used backup guard Felix Balamou, who sat out with a sprained right ankle after getting hurt in practice, further diminishing a team already short on depth.
The Red Storm surged in front with a 15-4 run late in the first half keyed by nine points from Harrison, including a long 3 that barely beat the shot clock.
Barlow’s high, running floater trimmed Butler’s deficit to 30-26 at halftime.
Butler: It was Butler’s first game at Carnesecca Arena. … The Bulldogs lost both meetings with St. John’s by an average of 21 points last season, their first in the reconfigured Big East. … Butler is 2-2 against ranked teams this season. … Dunham’s previous season high was 26 points against Chattanooga on Nov. 18. … Holtmann replaced Brandon Miller, who took a medical leave in October. Miller was promoted from assistant coach to head coach in July 2013 after Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics’ job.
St. John’s: Jordan is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team, St. John’s announced Friday. The 6-foot-4 sophomore guard, a highly touted recruit, ranked sixth in the Big East in scoring (14 points per game) and fourth in steals (2.1 per game). A preseason All-Big East second team selection, Jordan started the first five games of the season before committing nine turnovers in a loss to then-No. 10 Gonzaga. He had been coming off the bench since, but was averaging 29 minutes per game. He also missed a Dec. 22 win over Long Beach State with what the school said was the flu.
Butler: Hosts Providence on Tuesday night.
St. John’s: Hosts No. 6 Villanova at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Wildcats coach Jay Wright will be going for his 300th win with Villanova (13-1, 1-1), coming off a 66-61 overtime loss at Seton Hall on Saturday. The Wildcats’ 13-game winning streak to start the season matched a school record. St. John’s leads the all-time series 60-49.
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