Butler star guard Rotnei Clarke was taken out of UD Arena in Dayton in the first half on a stretcher after a flagrant foul pushed him hard into the padding attached to the basket.
The Bulldogs played an inspired brand of basketball both before and after Clarke’s injury to defeat Dayton 79-73. The best news however, came after the game when Butler trainer Ryan Golloy delivered an update on Clarke to the victorious Bulldogs.
“He (Galloy) said it was just a bad whiplash so I’m glad that’s good and hopefully he’ll come back soon,” said sophomore Roosevelt Jones.
Not long after crashing awkwardly into the basket support Clarke could be heard on the television broadcast saying, “I am not coming out” not long after laying on the ground, Clarke was immediately surrounded by doctors and medical personnel and told not to move. When Galloy first approached Clarke, he feared the worst.
“He could not feel anything when I got out there, and then his feeling came back and as everybody saw, he kindof gave everybody the thumbs-up,” said Golloy in an interview with Fox 59 after the game. “I think initially he was more mad about having to get pulled out of the game, that is the type of player that he is, but it was scary,” added Galloy.
Butler Athletic Director Barry Collier issued a tweet to the Butler fans during the game, saying, “Join me in prayer for Rotnei Clarke. He is one tough Dog.”
Clarke managed to score five points before his injury. The Bulldogs led their new Atlantic-Ten rival Dayton 35-27 at halftime and had the lead up to 12-points in the second half before a run by the Flyers cut the deficit to four with 26 seconds to play.
However, Kellen Dunham hit two free throws on the ensuing possession and the Bulldogs put the clamps down defensively to defeat Dayton 79-73. The victory is their 11th straight and completes an impressive 2-0 road opening week in the Atlantic-10.
Galloy confirmed to Fox 59 that Clarke had a CT scan at the hospital, “It was negative for any kind of a fracture,” and added that Clarke while currently fitted with a collar, “basically has a bad neck sprain.”
Butler head coach Brad Stevens left to be with Clarke at the hospital immediately after the game. He and Clarke were planning to meet the Butler team bus and ride back to Indianapolis as one relieved, winning team.
“We knew it was going to be tough coming in, two great teams, two great road games in great environments. Before each game Coach (Stevens) kept talking about how these environments were going to be so fun to play in, this is why you play college basketball,” said senior Center Andrew Smith, referencing wins at St. Joseph’s and Dayton.
While not pleased with the frightening moment in the first half, Butler fans can take solace in the good forecast of health for Clarke and the team’s recent run of success.
The Bulldogs (14-2, 2-0) take an 11-game winning streak into Wednesday’s game against Richmond.
It is not known how long Clarke will be out with the sprain, but associate head coach Matthew Graves offered some perspective after the game.
“His health will be first and foremost, but somebody is probably going to have to strap him down to the couch tonight or he is going to be at Hinkle shooting jump shots. We’re certainly going to be very cautious with him, but knowing him he is going to be back as quickly as he can,” said a smiling Graves.