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Butler-Missouri St. Preview

Butler did something – many things, actually – in its season opener that hadn’t been accomplished before in the program’s history.

It’s not expecting to break any more records during the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

The flow should be much more tame when the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs face Missouri State in the first round of the tournament Thursday.

Butler set school marks for points in a game, points in a half, field goals made and margin of victory in Saturday’s 144-71 rout of The Citadel, which runs an offensive system based around getting off as many shots as possible as quickly as possible.

The Bulldogs kept pace, scoring 71 points in the first half to break the school record before bettering it in the second. They finished 56 of 88 from the field and won by 73, surpassing a 68-point win over Indiana Law School in 1921-22.

It also marked the most points any school has scored against a Division-I team since TCU beat Texas-Pan American 153-87 in 1997.

Kellen Dunham scored 22 of his team-high 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and Roosevelt Jones finished with 18 and 11 rebounds. Guard Tyler Lewis, a former McDonald’s All-American and transfer from North Carolina State, had 17 points in his Butler debut.

Jones said the style of play was something he hadn’t participated in outside of an open gym, and although Butler succeeded while playing outside its comfort zone, the victory didn’t do much to prepare it for the more tight, physical games it is bound to have throughout the season – especially in the Big East.

“They won’t all be like that. Our guys played with a purpose and I think they understood this game was a unique situation,” coach Chris Holtmann said.

“This was probably a once in-a-lifetime type of game. I think we’ll take a few key points from this, like sharing the ball and some of the pressure, but I think we’ll move on and get ready for Missouri State.”

Few teams play at the pace of The Citadel, and the Bulldogs likely won’t face that type of up-and-down action no matter who they take on in Puerto Rico. That includes the Bears, who are coming off an 80-65 loss at Oral Roberts on Friday in their opener.

Missouri State went 22 for 54 from the field – The Citadel attempted 47 3-pointers alone – and didn’t have a single starter in double figures. Chris Kendrix scored 13 points, Jordan Martin added 11 and Loomis Gerring had 10.

The Bears, who trailed by 17 at the half, sent ORU to the free-throw line 32 times and committed 17 turnovers. Possibly their most encouraging performance came from freshman forward Obediah Church, who hit two of his three field-goal attempts while grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking five shots.

“We didn’t play team basketball early on, and we let them get some big runs,” coach Paul Lusk said. “We will get better, and these guys want to get better.”

The winner of this contest advances to Friday’s semifinals against Temple or Minnesota, while the losers will play in the consolation bracket the same day.

Butler and No. 16 Utah are the only ranked teams in the Tip-Off field and wouldn’t meet until the championship game, which will be played Sunday.

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