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Eric Hunter Jr. helps Butler hold off DePaul

Jan 1, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Butler Bulldogs head coach Thad Matta reacts against the Georgetown Hoyas during the first half at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Graduate transfer Eric Hunter Jr. scored a career-high 23 points — including three 3-pointers in the second half — to lead Butler to a 78-70 Big East victory over DePaul on Wednesday night in Indianapolis.

Many of Hunter’s 17 second-half points for Butler (10-6, 2-3) came shortly after DePaul went on rallies to pull within a possession or two. Jayden Taylor contributed 16 points while Simas Lukosius (12 points) and Manny Bates (11 points) also hit double figures.

Umoja Gibson paced DePaul (7-9, 1-4) with 16 points and eight assists while Da’Sean Nelson and Yor Anei posted 14 points apiece.

Both teams struggled to find the bottom of the net in the early going. With just over eight minutes remaining in the first half, DePaul held a 14-13 lead as the Blue Demons made just 6 of their first 17 shots — slightly better than the Bulldogs’ 5-of-16 showing.

Butler began picking up the pace as Taylor cashed a 3-pointer and Hunter converted two layups — the latter taking the Indianapolis native past 1,000 points for his college career.

Nelson canned two short shots to keep the Blue Demons within 22-21 with four minutes to play.

Butler carried a 34-25 lead into the break as Taylor swished a 3-pointer and Chuck Harris netted a 3-pointer and a 20-footer in the final three minutes of the half.

DePaul came out hot in the second half and scored 14 points in the first four minutes — capped by 3-pointers from Jalen Terry and Gibson — to pull within 42-39. But the Blue Demons couldn’t find a way to get closer.

Hunter responded with a driving layup and two 3-pointers to stake Butler to a 57-47 lead with 10:15 to play — the game’s biggest margin to that point.

The Bulldogs boosted their lead to 66-53 before DePaul’s Philmon Gebrewhit went on a spree. He drilled back-to-back 3-pointers, then drove for a conventional three-point play for his only points of the night to pull the Blue Demons within 66-62 with 3:29 to go.

Again, DePaul could not creep closer. Taylor’s 15-foot baseline jumper as the shot clock expired with 59 seconds left pushed Butler’s lead to 72-65.

–Field Level Media