OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - That 11-1 start seems like a long time ago for Butler.
The 18th-ranked Bulldogs couldn’t overcome cold shooting and foul trouble in a 72-64 loss to Creighton on Saturday night and dropped to 1-3 in Big East road games.
“You’re in a big-boy league playing big boys every night,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We’ve got to control what we control. That’s our play and effort and approach every day. We have a great group of guys, guys who are locked in with a great spirit and way about them. If we let this beat us up too much, then we’re not prepared for this league.”
Reserve Kelan Martin scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half for the Bulldogs (13-6, 2-5), who are tied with Marquette for seventh in the Big East. Maurice Watson scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half for Creighton (14-6, 5-2).
The Bulldogs shot 30.4 percent while playing without point guard Tyler Lewis, who sustained a concussion in practice Thursday.
Kellen Dunham made all three of his 3-point attempts and scored 20 points. Roosevelt Jones, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds, had to run the point in Lewis’ place and played the last 10:38 with four fouls. Jordan Gathers fouled out early in the second half, and Tyler Wideman and Andrew Chrabascz also had five fouls.
Creighton opened the second half with an 11-0 run, turning a five-point halftime deficit into a 40-34 lead. Butler started the half 0 for 6 with three turnovers before Jones snaked through the lane for a layup.
“We just have to come out better in every game in the second half,” Martin said. “We always played good in the first half and then we just seem to go down at the start of the second half. No pouting. We need everybody encouraging each other in every game and we need to come out harder.”
The Bulldogs closed to 68-64 on Dunham’s 3-pointer with 18 seconds left, but Isaiah Zierden and James Milliken made free throws to put the game away.
“We wanted to accomplish something defensively these last couple games,” Creighton’s Toby Hegner said. “Props to Butler. Dunham hit a lot of good shots, a lot of tough shots, but we were the tougher team the second half and we got the lead and did what we had to do.”
Picked to finish ninth in the Big East, the Bluejays are within two games of league-leading Villanova near the conference schedule’s halfway point.
“I’m happy where we’re at,” coach Greg McDermott said. “In this league it’s so fragile because the league is so competitive. You have to stay ready and in the moment. You can’t take a breath.”
Butler: Gathers, making his second start of the season, fouled out after playing seven minutes. … Holtmann was assessed a technical foul for arguing a foul call with 11:54 left. Zierden made both free throws. … It was Butler’s first loss against a non-Top 25 opponent.
Creighton: Tyler Clement’s 3-pointer in the first half was his first basket since Dec. 21 vs. North Texas. … Entered the game scoring a Big East-leading 83.5 points a game. … Has been .500 or better after 20 games in 20 of the last 21 seasons.
Butler hosts DePaul on Wednesday.
Creighton visits Georgetown on Tuesday.
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