By Kevin Sweeney
In a game in which both teams were in desperate need of a win, Butler got a boost from senior forward Austin Etherington to defeat Creighton 88-75 on Tuesday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Etherington registered a career-high 17 points off the bench, including 4 3-pointers, as he easily eclipsed his season average of 2.4 points per game.
Butler’s struggles in Big East play has left the Bulldogs on the bubble despite a strong non-conference performance that included wins over Purdue, Cincinnati, and Temple. After a blowout loss to Xavier on Saturday, the Bulldogs fell to 6-7 in league play. With a matchup with #1 Villanova looming, this game was a must-win for Butler to stay on track for the Big Dance. The Bulldogs showed up in a big way, and did so from the opening tip. Sophomore wing Kelan Martin knocked down 3’s for Butler’s first two field goals, setting the tone for a 3-point barrage by the Bulldogs, who would finish the night 13-27 from downtown. Martin, Etherington, and senior guard Kellen Dunham each poured in 4 shots from long range for the Bulldogs.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott called Etherington “the difference in the game” and credited him for adding an extra dimension to the Bulldog offense, saying “It makes it difficult to figure out who you are going to help with on [Tyler] Wideman’s roles off those screens with that many guys around him who can shoot the basketball.”
Martin had 21 points and 8 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs, while Dunham added 16 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists. Maurice Watson poured in 22 points for the Bluejays.
Up next for Butler is a huge matchup with #1 Villanova in Philadelphia on Saturday. Creighton will return home on Wednesday, February 24 to face Marquette.