February 15, 2015

Butler may be avoiding a ranked Big East team this weekend, but it still should face a major challenge against the only team in the conference with a higher-scoring offense.

The No. 18 Bulldogs are languishing in seventh place in the Big East ahead of Saturday night's visit to Creighton.

The only conference wins for Butler (13-5, 2-4) have come against the worst teams, St. John's and DePaul. The Bulldogs fell to 0-4 against ranked Big East teams following Tuesday's 71-68 loss at No. 16 Providence.

Kellen Dunham, fourth in the league with 16.4 points per game, scored 21 to give him at least that many in three of his last four games. He hit a season-high six 3-pointers.

"We understand how great all our (conference) teams are. But we definitely can improve," Dunham said. "I don't think we've hit our ceiling by any means."

The Bulldogs average 83.3 points and the Bluejays are only slightly better at 83.5. Butler is shooting a conference-best 48.7 percent, while Creighton is second at 48.4.

The Bluejays (13-6, 4-2) scored an average of 72.0 points on 41.6 percent shooting through their first five Big East games before connecting at 52.6 percent and making 13 of 26 from 3-point range in Sunday's 91-80 victory at DePaul.

"We've struggled to shoot the ball in conference play and that's how we're built," coach Greg McDermott said. "We're built as a team that can really shoot."

Isaiah Zierden set career highs with eight 3-pointers and 31 points. He entered the contest averaging 11.2 points and shooting 32.4 percent on 3s in Big East play.

"I was just trying to find the open spot," Zierden said. "My teammates did a great job of finding me and I was just letting it go."

The Bluejays seek revenge after losing twice to the Bulldogs by a total of five points last season, including a 58-56 defeat in the last meeting Feb. 16, when Butler's Roosevelt Jones converted a layup with 1.9 seconds left.

Jones totaled 36 points, 16 boards and 12 assists in the sweep, while Dunham had 26 points.

Zierden may have painful memories of his last meeting with Butler in a 64-61 road loss Jan. 21, 2015, when he suffered a knee injury that required season-ending surgery.

"Butler's a great team, they're gonna come in and have a fight, so we want to be able to protect our home floor and do what we can to get a win," Zierden said.

Butler will get its first look at Creighton top scorer Maurice Watson Jr., a transfer from Boston University averaging 13.7 points. He's a big reason why the Bluejays are tied with Providence and No. 5 Xavier for third in the conference.

"We're a third of the way through conference season and I like the position we're in," McDermott said.

The Bulldogs didn't drop two straight Big East road games a season ago, and know they must play better to avoid that fate Saturday.

"For us to win on the road, for us to beat a quality team on the road, for us to win on Saturday, we're going to need more quality play out of more players," Dunham said.

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