By Brent Glasgow
ORLANDO – Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall combined for 62 points as Butler notched a 76-69 Thanksgiving win over Washington State to advance to the Old Spice Classic winner’s bracket.
“When we’re in tough, tight situations, close games, these guys seem to come together and find ways to win games, and that’s exactly what happened today,” Butler coach Brandon Miller said.
Dunham scored 24 of his game-, career- and all-time tournament-high 32 points in the second half.
“I was in attack-mode a lot tonight, just trying to look for opportunities to score,” Dunham said.
Marshall’s career-high 30 points were spread throughout what was a dominating performance for the Butler senior.
“There were a lot of holes in the middle of the zone,” Marshall said. “We saw that on film, so even before the game I knew there’d be a lot of space in the middle. After a couple go down, you get in a rhythm, and I was in a real good rhythm this game.”
Butler (5-0) will face fifth-ranked Oklahoma State (6-0) at 1:30 p.m. Friday. After leading by 24, the Cowboys were pushed late by Purdue but came out with a 97-87 win.
“You’re always excited to move on in such a big tournament,” Marshall said. “That first game’s very important, and to play the No. 5 team in the country, it’s a pretty big game for us. We’ll be ready for the challenge.”
Dunham had back-to-back 3-pointers to give Butler a 68-67 lead with two minutes left. Kameron Woods, who had a game-high 10 rebounds, followed with a steal and dunk, and Dunham had five more points in the final minute.
In the end, it came down to Dunham and Marshall, who were unstoppable.
“As the game got tighter, those guys got better,” Miller said. “Both guys on the offensive end produced.”
Marshall (14) and Dunham (eight) combined for all but eight of Butler’s points in the first half, as the Bulldogs held a 30-26 halftime lead. Butler led despite shooting 38.7 percent from the field and getting outrebounded 22-14.
The second half was back-and-forth from the get-go. Washington State (2-3) shot 5 of 10 from 3-point range on its way to a 67-65 lead with 2:28 left, before Butler went on its game-clinching run.
Butler had just six turnovers and shot a much-improved 76 percent (16-21) at the foul line.
“We’re a better free throw shooting team than our percentage indicated coming into the game,” Miller said. “We stepped up and made some free throws, and thank goodness, because it was a close game and we needed every one we shot.”
Miller said Butler’s fan following helped push the Bulldogs at the end.
“We played off of their emotion towards the end of the game, and obviously to have that support, in Orlando and on Thanksgiving, it was great for our team,” he said.