Make no mistake about it, the Butler Bulldogs missed leading scorer Rotnei Clarke on Wednesday night against Atlantic 10 foe Richmond. Even if the final score of 62-47, with the Bulldogs (15-2, 3-0) collecting their twelfth win in a row, over the Spiders (11-7, 1-2) doesn’t quite suggest it.
But even without their star player, Butler continued to do the things that makes Butler so good, playing outstanding fundamental basketball on the way to a win.
“I thought our guys did a great job,” said Butler Head Coach Brad Stevens about not playing with Clarke. “Our guys did a great job. They tried to extend the floor, and (Alex) Barlow and (Roosevelt Jones) did an awesome job handling the ball. Eleven turnovers against a team that is in the top-50 in the country of forcing turnovers, forcing turnovers 24% of the time, is outstanding. So I’m really proud of how our guys handled the ball especially.”
Jones not only handled the ball well but led the team with a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds, with Senior Andrew Smith also pitching in 15 points along with seven boards. Overall as a team, Butler managed to out-rebound Richmond by the total of 53 to 20.
“It was a focus for us to get more rebounds,” said Jones. “Plus when they were switching men, they had a smaller guy on me, Andrew, or Khyle (Marshall), so it was just easier tonight to just tip it or grab it for our team.”
The game was never really in doubt for the Bulldogs, who only fell behind once on the opening basket of the game, holding a 33-21 lead at the half that never seemed to waiver.
Butler now has the tough task of facing number-eight ranked Gonzaga (16-1) on Saturday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse, a team Butler has watched from afar for some time now.
“I think we have an unbelievable respect for Gonazaga,” said Stevens. “We have from afar from a long time, and the biggest influence they have had on us is scheduling. The way that they schedule. They buy a handful of games, and they will play anybody, anywhere. As long as they will go back to Spokane or play on a neutral court. So we have done our best to model that.”