Trailing by as many as 17 points late in the first half, Seton Hall was put on the injured shoulders of Isaiah Whitehead and was brought within two with 90 seconds to play before four straight points from Roosevelt Jones gave Butler the breathing room they needed for a hard-fought 85-78 win.
Seton Hall got off to an uneasy start offensively as Kellen Dunham (22 pts) heated up early en route to 16 first half points and things really went downhill when Isaiah Whitehead (27 pts, 6 rebs, 3 asts) headed to the locker room with a shoulder injury after coming down hard on a layup attempt.
Butler was able to construct an early 21-7 lead and hold Seton Hall to under 30-percent for most of the first half as Dunham featured by hitting a handful of smooth jumpers that stemmed any Pirate momentum; only Desi Rodriguez (12 pts, 4 rebs) and Ish Sanogo (9 pts, 8 rebs) scored for the Hall during the first 11 minutes.
Trailing 43-28 at the half and in need of inspiration, Seton Hall was able to get it in the form of a 10-0 run that coincided with holding Butler to a 6:30 field goal drought after they scored on their first possession out of the half.
The run saw Whitehead get right back in the swing of things and brought Seton Hall within five as the two schools went back and forth through the under-eight with the Pirates trailing 59-53.
Whitehead would score six more points in a few minute span to inch his team within four, but Roosevelt Jones continued to play the role of Pirate killer by sinking a few big-time buckets of his own.
The pair of lead guards continued to go at each other by scoring a slew of tough buckets as Whitehead would reach a new career-high of 27 along the way, surpassing his old best of 26 set against Butler earlier this year.
The Hall would score 12 points over the final 3:30 and 10 came from Whitehead but Butler has to be handed credit for answering time after time following their early second half drought. Whether it was Jones, a late Dunham basket from a baseline out of bounds play with 7 on the shot clock or Kelan Martin’s first basket in a long stretch, the Bulldogs kept answering.
Seton Hall (21-8, 11-6) has now had a four-game winning streak snapped twice by Butler, the only school they’ve lost to over the last month-plus. Seton Hall and Kevin Willard are now both 1-6 against Butler all-time. The Pirates will wrap up Big East play with a momentum sustaining game against DePaul on Saturday.
Isaiah Whitehead is a gamer. He played in a little big of a fog after coming down really hard on his left shoulder in the first half, but he was filled with confidence and swagger over the closing 15 minutes; First-team All-Big East for sure.
Derrick Gordon and Angel Delgado disappointed. Gordon again played one of his worst games of the season against Butler. He didn’t see much time down the stretch and for good reason. Delgado did have 8 points and 6 boards, but he could have had a lot more. He wasn’t involved enough at all over the first 10 minutes and wasn’t exactly able to sync up with Whitehead when the offense did get going in the second half (and Butler’s forwards were in foul trouble).
Anyone tired of Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham? Jones was unstoppable going to the rim late in the game while Dunham was hitting nothing but net in the first half. Seton Hall’s sophomores are now 0-4 against the pair.