INDIANAPOLIS — It doesn’t take an Actuarial Science major at Butler to analyze that when the Bulldogs shoot — and make — 3-point shots with some degree of frequency, they win games.
In the three defeats Butler has suffered this season, it made no more than four of those shots.
In the Bulldogs’ nine victories, they’ve connected on an average of six made 3-pointers, and sometimes as many as nine.
“We need more guys to be weapons from the 3-point line for us to be successful,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said following his team’s practice Friday afternoon in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler (9-3) reconvened following a three-day holiday break and practiced twice Friday in preparation for Sunday’s home game with Belmont.
Butler has gotten steady production from Kellen Dunham from long range. The junior wing Dunham is shooting 43.8 percent for the season and has made 28 3-pointers. However, the Bulldogs have not consistently had a second “weapon,” as Holtmann referred to his players, to help Dunham out.
“I think we’ll have that,” Holtmann said of the help, “because we do have several guys that have shown the capability of doing that.”
That is true. But the problem has been that it has not been the same guy consistently, and sometimes there has been no one at all to help relieve the shooting burden on Dunham.
In eight of the Bulldogs’ 12 games, Dunham has had good shooting nights, but teammates such as freshman forward Kelan Martin (four solid games shooting), senior guard Alex Barlow (three), sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz (five), and graduate student Austin Etherington (three) have each been sporadic in their accuracy.
“We need those [other] guys to be efficient 3-point shooters,” Holtmann said. “We need those five guys to shoot open ones, good ones; we need them to make shots.”
Chrabascz has the highest shooting percentage of the rest of the bunch from 3-point range. He’s made 9 of 24 attempts (37.5 percent), while Martin (13 makes for 28.3 percent), Barlow (28.6 percent), and Etherington (25 percent) lag behind.
|More 3s, more success|
|Nov. 15||Maine||8-16/50.0||W, 99-57|
|Nov. 18||Chattanooga||5-13/38.5||W, 70-48|
|Nov. 22||Loyola (Md.)||9-16/56.2||W, 80-39|
|Nov. 26||North Carolina||9-28/32.1||W, 74-66|
|Nov. 27||Oklahoma||4-23/17.4||L, 59-46|
|Nov. 28||Georgetown||4-14/28.6||W, 64-58|
|Dec. 3||Indiana State||6-14/42.9||W, 77-54|
|Dec. 6||Northwestern||1-5/20.0||W, 65-56|
|Dec. 8||Kennesaw State||7-18/38.9||W, 93-51|
|Dec. 14||Tennessee||10-29/34.5||L, 67-55|
|Dec. 20||Indiana||3-16/18.8||L, 82-73|
|Dec. 22||UT-Martin||6-20/30.0||W, 64-37|
Dunham has been a pleasant surprise this season with his accuracy. After connecting on just 35 percent of his 3-pointers in his first two seasons, he’s improved dramatically so far this year.
“He’s taking better shots, for sure,” Holtmann said.
Dunham is leading the Bulldogs in scoring (16.8 points per game) and has been the focal point of every defensive strategy this season. Indiana was effective in a recent win against Butler by playing a box-and-one on Dunham and forcing others to shoot (the Bulldogs were 1 of 11 aside from Dunham). Holtmann is curious to see how Dunham, his star player handles, the physicality and athleticism of the Big East games, which start next Wednesday at No. 7-ranked Villanova.
“It will be interesting to see as we go through a string of Big East games, where they lock into him with an athlete,” Holtmann said. “Can he respond by still taking good shots and knock them down when he gets them?”
Holtmann already caught a glimpse of that last month, when Butler played a non-league game against a Big East opponent Georgetown due to a scheduling matter in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.
In that game, Dunham made just 2 of 6 3-pointers, but drove the ball and made half of his 10 shots en route to 16 points in the Butler victory.
“He stayed patient and when the opportunity came late, boom,” Holtmann said with a smile. “He busted through the door. He got a couple of good scores within our system and that closed the game for us.”