February 27, 2015

After opening Big East play with consecutive losses to ranked opponents, Butler now gets a chance to take any building frustration out on a team that's more accustomed to discouraging conference results.

The 18th-ranked Bulldogs head to DePaul on Tuesday night, with the Blue Demons' first two league games hinting at a ninth straight losing season in the conference.

Butler (11-3, 0-2) lost its league opener for the third time in as many seasons in the Big East, falling 81-73 to then-No. 12 Providence at home Thursday. It followed that setback with Saturday's 88-69 loss at then-No. 6 Xavier, and even with the difficult competition, coach Chris Holtmann wasn't covering for his players.

"We obviously have to get a lot better, that's the bottom line," said Holtmann, whose team had won its previous eight games, including two over ranked opponents. "We're not near where we need to be right now. So we've got a lot of work ahead of us."

The Bulldogs had scored 86.6 points per game and shot 50.8 percent on the winning streak before dipping to 71.0 and 40.2 marks in the last two - some of that falling on Kellen Dunham as he tries to overcome an alarming shooting slump.

The senior leads Butler with 14.9 points per game, but that's down from 16.4 over the previous two seasons mostly because he's averaged 8.0 and shot 19.4 percent overall and 13.5 from 3-point range in his last six. The 6-foot-6 guard has also pulled down only one rebound in 57 minutes over the last two games.

"Certainly we need him to make shots for us to beat good people, but we've beaten good people without him making shots," Holtmann said. "Kellen's got to play the rest of the game the way we expect him to play. He's got to play defense at a high level, he's got to rebound for us. He's not just a shot maker."

Thirteen points on 4-of-12 shooting against Xavier was actually a drastic improvement as he came off the bench for the first time this season and just the second time since his freshman year.

"I was happy to see some shots fall, but it wasn't enough," Dunham said. "I was shooting with the expectation that they will go in. They are going to go in. I have confidence the rest of the year."

Butler is 3-1 against DePaul in conference play with its three straight wins coming by an average of 19.0 points. Dunham has averaged 21.0 in all four, including a 30-point effort - two off his career high - in a 99-94 double-overtime loss on Jan. 9, 2014.

The Blue Demons (6-8, 0-2) have dropped five of six after Saturday's 78-74 defeat at Seton Hall. It was their 10th straight Big East loss, with those coming by an average of 11.8 points. The slump began with an 83-73 defeat at Butler on Feb. 7 and was followed five games later with a 67-53 home loss to the Bulldogs.

Both of those games are part of a 2-52 span against the Top 25, but both wins have come over their previous five against ranked teams, including an 82-61 win over then-No. 20 George Washington on Dec. 22.

Against Seton Hall, top scorer Billy Garrett Jr. stayed hot with 20 points and a season-high eight assists. He's averaging 20.3 points and shooting 60.0 percent over the last three games after scoring 13.5 per game on 38.9 percent in the first 11.

Garrett scored 22 in the win over Butler two seasons ago but has been held to 8.3 per game while shooting 38.1 percent in the three losses that followed.

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