No. 13 Butler shuts down Richmond
On a night Andrew Smith scored 15 points and Kellen Dunham added 11, the Bulldogs completely bottled up Richmond's shooters and rebounders and pulled away for a 62-47 victory in their first Atlantic 10 home game.
''Our whole team was focused and you could tell just by the way we came out tonight,'' Butler coach Brad Stevens said. ''We had to focus on the game, and I didn't have any question that we would do that. Sometimes when you lose a guy, it heightens your focus a little bit.''
Whatever the impact, losing Clarke to a severely sprained neck didn't slow down the Bulldogs (15-2, 3-0) one bit.
They will take a 12-game winning streak into Saturday's home showdown against No. 8 Gonzaga, with a chance to become the first team in school history to beat three Top 10 teams in one season. The Bulldogs already have beaten Indiana and North Carolina and may face an even tougher challenge without having Clarke available Saturday.
But of all the different ways the Bulldogs have won this season, from last-second shots to impressive blowouts, Wednesday night's performance may go down as the most rewarding victory for Stevens.
Butler didn't flinch when Richmond started switching defenders, and it wound up using its size advantage to dominate the glass. The Bulldogs outrebounded Richmond 53-20 overall with a staggering 20 offensive rebounds compared to 14 defensive rebounds for Richmond.
The Spiders (11-7, 1-2) came into the game averaging 71.2 points and shooting 45.4 percent from the field. In their first trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse, though, Richmond finished with a season-low 47 points and shot a season-low 32.7 percent from the field, just a tick worse than they did against Kansas.
''Playing without their best player, they didn't miss a beat on defense,'' Spiders coach Chris Mooney said. ''They may be a little less dynamic on offense.''
That didn't matter.
Stevens told reporters Tuesday that the Bulldogs would make up for Clarke's missing 16.3 points with both familiar and unfamiliar names. He was right.
Roosevelt Jones continued his impressive play, finishing with 10 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Dunham, who started in place of Clarke, scored 11 points despite going 2 of 11 from the field. Kameron Woods had eight points and seven rebounds. Alex Barlow finished with five points, double his scoring average, and Andrew Smeathers, who scored six points all season, had five against Richmond.
''Without Rotnei we lose one of our shooters, so we were focused on going inside a little bit more,'' Smith said. ''But it doesn't really change what we did a whole lot.''
For Richmond, it was a night-long struggle.
It opened the game just 4 of 22 from the field. The percentage improved to 28.6 percent at halftime with a late scoring flurry and steadily increased throughout the second half.
It wasn't nearly enough to pull the upset. Darien Brothers was the only Richmond player to reach double figures. He finished with 12 points. Cedrick Lindsay made two 3-pointers and scored nine points. Nobody else had more than six as the Spiders played without their second-leading scorer, forward Derrick Williams, for the fourth straight game because of a sprained ankle.
Richmond has lost two in a row, both on the road, and five of seven overall.
''They're a good defensive team, but I did think we had looks we could make,'' Mooney said. ''But scoring now is really heavily weighted to us shooting the ball well because we're not getting any inside baskets.''
With almost no inside presence, Butler made this one easy.
The Bulldogs took control with first-half runs of 7-0 and 8-0 to build a 23-11 lead with 5:26 left in the first half. After Deion Taylor's second 3 got Richmond within 25-17, the Bulldogs closed the half on an 8-4 spurt that ended with Barlow's 3 to make it 33-21.
Things didn't change much in the second half.
Butler made two baskets in the first 1:49.
Richmond needed more than 4 minutes to match that total and another 5 minutes before Lindsay delivered Richmond's third basket, a 3 with 11:33 to go that cut the Bulldogs' lead to 46-29. The Spiders did make one late push, using a 9-0 run to close to 50-41 with 8:23 left.
But the Bulldogs thwarted the rally, expanded the lead to as much as 15 and then shut the Spiders on defense again.
''That is a great win,'' Stevens said. ''That's a hard team to play against, a hard team to prepare for because they do something that is really unique in college basketball, they switch everything. But our guys stayed the course in a game you almost have to play their way.''