NEWARK, New Jersey — Once Butler contained Isaiah Whitehead after a 23-point first half, beating Seton Hall became more manageable.
Kelan Martin had 23 points and 10 rebounds and the Bulldogs held Whitehead to 0-for-6 shooting and three points in the final 20 minutes in posting an 81-75 victory on Wednesday night.
"We had to find a way to limit Whitehead in the second half because he was a monster in the first half," Butler coach Chris Holtmann said after the Bulldogs (17-7, 6-6 Big East) won their third straight game. "We contributed to some of that, but good players can make you look bad at times, and he did that."
Whitehead was unstoppable in the first half. He hit all eight of his shots from the field, including a career-best seven 3-pointers, the last one tying the game at 38-all at halftime.
Butler adjusted after the break. Point guard Roosevelt Jones did a much better job of preventing Whitehead from getting the ball. Fellow senior Kellen Dunham went to the basket more and scored 15 of his 18 in the second half. And the Bulldogs made the big plays when they needed them with Andrew Chrabascz (11 points) adding a big block in the closing seconds.
"They really tried to take the ball out of my hands," said Whitehead, who finished with a career-best 26 points and matched his career best with 10 assists, nine in the second half. "I just tried trust my teammates and we almost had a shot at the end with me doing that. You really can't complain about that."
Tyler Wideman also had 11 points and Jones 10 for Butler, which shot 56 percent from the field.
Desi Rodriguez added 18 points for Seton Hall (17-7, 7-5), which had a four-game winning streak snapped. Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington added 11 points apiece.
Butler, which scored 40 points in the paint, took the lead for good with a 16-4 run early in the second half. Dunham started the spurt with five straight points and finished it with two free throws for a 56-47 lead with 13:37 left.
"Coach is really going to kill us," Whitehead said. "That was probably the worst defensive effort we had all year. I think it was worse than Creighton because it was blatant wide open shots, just giving up open lanes. It was horrible today."
Seton Hall made little runs the rest of the way but it never got over the hump as the Bulldogs hit big baskets at the most crucial times.
Down 64-56, the Pirates scored six straight points to get within 64-62. Martin then calmly hit a 3-pointer to ignite a 7-2 run that pushed the margin to 71-64 with 5:55 to go.
The Pirates made their final run in the final three minutes, scoring six straight points to get to 77-75 when Ismael Sanogo hit 1 of 2 free throws with 1:10 left. Martin missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 49.6 seconds to go but Sanogo lost his handle on the rebound and there was a jump ball, with Butler having the possession arrow. Jones, a senior, then worked the clock down and banked in a running layup high off the backboard with 20.4 seconds to go for a 79-75 lead.
"He's a senior," Holtmann said of Jones. "If he wants to continue to win that's what seniors do."
Chrabascz, who also had five rebounds and six assists, blocked Whitehead on a drive and that was it.
Whitehead was the only reason Seton Hall was tied at halftime. The sophomore had never hit more than four 3-points in a game. His 23 first-half points were a season-high and just two off his career high, set on Dec. 6, 2014 against Rutgers.
Dunham said Butler still has a lot of work to do to get to the NCAA tournament.
"We are definitely not walking into a tournament of that caliber the way we are now," he said. "We're approaching it that we are going to fight our way to get a chance to play in that tournament, that's the goal for most teams."
Butler: Four days after becoming the first Bulldog since the 1983-84 season to record a triple-double, Jones had 10 points, four assists and four rebounds.
Seton Hall: Whitehead came into the game shooting 33.3 percent from 3-point range, making 45 of 135. His shooting from the field overall wasn't much better, making 36.5 percent.
Butler: Home to face No. 5 Xavier on Saturday.
Seton Hall: Visits Georgetown on Feb. 17.