By Michael Marot
The Associated Press
Kameron Woods walked into Saturday night's postgame news conference with an ice pack covering his right wrist. Teammate Kellen Dunham acknowledged he was sore, too.
They were scars of a rough night at Butler.
While Dunham scored a career-high 26 points and Woods had 11 points and 10 rebounds, the Bulldogs still had to fend off two shots that could have forced overtime before finally walking away with a 70-67 victory over the feisty Tigers.
"That comes with the game, and I'm going to fight like that every game for the whole season," Dunham said after easily surpassing his previous career-best of 18 points last November. "Hopefully, I'll survive."
Saturday night was no laughing matter for the Bulldogs (2-0), though.
They needed everything their star sophomore shooter could give them and a little more. The former Pendleton Heights star and Indiana All-Star was 7-of-14 from the field, knocked down four 3-pointers and had six rebounds and two assists, and he showed no fear of putting the ball on the floor and going to the basket — drawing some hard fouls that sent him crashing to the ground and almost into the basket support.
Woods had his fifth career double-double while freshman Elijah Brown scored 13 points and Erik Fromm added 10.
But, just like coach Brandon Miller warned at halftime, the Bulldogs couldn't put away Princeton (1-1).
It was an unusual night in every sense including back on the Tigers' campus where there have been seven confirmed cases of bacterial meningitis. The scare didn't affect the basketball team, which arrived in Indianapolis on Friday and somehow managed to play its way back into the game when things looked bleakest.
The Tigers took advantage of Butler's uncharacteristic 27 fouls but went just 23-of-37 from the free-throw line. It was the most free throws attempted in a game by Princeton since it had 40 attempts against Columbia on Feb. 12, 2005. The Tigers also outrebounded the Bulldogs 33-30 and continued to trade punches until a short jumper from Denton King rolled off the rim with 3.7 seconds to go and Jimmy Sherburne's half-court heave, following a rare missed free throw by Dunham, hit nothing but air at the buzzer.
Princeton has now lost three straight at Hinkle Fieldhouse and has not beaten a current Big East member on the road since December 1996, at Marquette.
"I thought we came into a tough place to play and competed to win. We outrebounded a really good rebounding team," said coach Mitch Henderson, an Indiana native and Princeton alum. "I think that we're smart — and I don't mean that because we go to Princeton. I think these guys know how to play."
He won't get any argument from Miller, who has won two straight since taking over from Brad Stevens.
"At halftime, we talked about if we were able to get up on them at any point in time, they were going to come back," Miller said. "They present a lot of matchup problems."
Butler learned that lesson the hard way.
The Bulldogs couldn't get the lead until Brown started an 8-0 run with at the 7:11 mark of the first half. When the spurt ended, Butler led 27-20.
Princeton answered immediately with an 11-4 spurt to tie the score at 31 with 15.1 seconds to go, but Dunham's 5-foot runner made it 33-31 at the half.
For the Bulldogs, it was just a start. Woods opened the second half with a three-point play, Dunham followed that with another 3 and another three-point play, then Woods hit a short jumper and Erik Fromm made two free throws to give Butler a 46-33 lead.
Princeton still refused to fold, closing the deficit to 54-51 with 10:13 to go and doing it all over again after falling into an 11-point hole with 5:40 to go.
So when Koon made two free throws with 47.4 seconds left to make it 69-67 and Brown was called for traveling on the ensuing possession, the Tigers drew up a play for their top scorer. This time, he came up short, finishing with 21 points.
"Down 67-59 with less than four (minutes), really happy to be getting a shot to tie it," said Henderson, who was playing without his top player, T.J. Bray, because of a hand injury.
After Dunham missed the second of two free throws, Sherburne heaved the ball from half-court, which hit nothing but air. Sherburne had 15 points.
And the Bulldogs could, finally, breathe easily after a tough fight.
"If we win a game here on one end of the floor, we want it to be on the defensive end," Woods said, before explaining he had a sore bone in his wrist and would be all right. "When it (Koon's shot) went up, I knew all five guys would be crashing the boards, and that's what they did."