Butler didn't have much success establishing Hinkle Fieldhouse as a home-court advantage in its first season in the Big East, but lately conference opponents are getting a good idea of how tough it can be to win in the historic venue.
The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs continue a home-heavy stretch Saturday against surprisingly improved DePaul looking to win five straight overall and five in a row in Indianapolis.
Butler (17-6, 7-3) found itself in territory quite familiar to DePaul in 2013-14 as it adjusted to the loss of coach Brad Stevens and a jump to a different league - the bottom of the Big East. The Bulldogs went 4-14 in conference play - only the Blue Demons were worse at 3-15 - and won just two of their nine league home games.
With Chris Holtmann now permanently in charge, Butler's no longer having trouble protecting the home court that "Hoosiers" helped make famous. The Bulldogs are 11-1 overall at Hinkle after kicking off a three-game homestand - and continuing a stretch of five of six at home - with an 85-62 rout of St. John's on Tuesday.
Butler scored 46 points in the paint, taking advantage after Red Storm big man Chris Obekpa was ejected in the first half for hitting Tyler Wideman in the head.
"This time of the year, every game is so important, and because of that emotions can run high," Holtmann said. "I was impressed with our guys' poise for the most part. There are things we still need to work on, but this was a very big win for us."
Butler has held five of its past six opponents below 40 percent shooting and is among the NCAA's top 15 in points allowed per possession (0.886). Now it gets a look at a team that was awfully efficient from the inside on Tuesday.
DePaul (12-12, 6-5) couldn't do much from beyond the arc against Seton Hall, going 5 of 21, but it went 25 of 38 (65.8 percent) from inside it in a 75-62 victory.
Billy Garrett Jr. had nine of his 20 points in the final 4:02 as the Blue Demons closed on a 14-1 run.
"The last six minutes of the game, we were flawless," coach Oliver Purnell said. "What we concentrate on is not turning the ball over, getting a good shot, be solid on defense and make your free throws."
Defense seems to be the key for DePaul, which has as many conference road wins (two) as it did in its previous 23 games. The Blue Demons are 10-1 when holding opponents under 45 percent from the field, something they did only eight times in 2013-14 while posting the worst defensive field-goal percentage (48.0) among the NCAA's then-83 major conference programs.
DePaul has been especially good at guarding the perimeter, holding its 11 conference opponents to just 27.5 percent from 3-point range. Butler (28.1) is right behind.
The edge for the Bulldogs appears to be inside. Butler has a Big East-best plus-6.1 rebound differential in league play - DePaul's is minus-3.0 - and has averaged 27.1 free-throw attempts in its last seven games.
The Blue Demons let opponents get to the line 25.4 times per contest - the worst among the nation's now 86 major conference teams.
That's good news for Butler forward Andrew Chrabascz, who has averaged 20 points, shot 62.9 percent overall and attempted 22 free throws in his last three games.
The Blue Demons enjoyed their January trip to Hinkle last season, earning a 99-94 win in double overtime behind 22 points from Garrett. Butler rolled to a 79-46 win at Allstate Arena on March 6.