Hot Start Carries Bulldogs Past Elon

Hot Start Carries Bulldogs Past Elon
Senior Rotnei Clarke (Photo by John Fetcho)
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INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Senior Rotnei Clarke led all players with 21 points and sparked Butler to a sizzling first half shooting performance in a season-opening 74-59 victory over visiting Elon at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday (Nov. 10).  It was the 14th straight year that the Bulldogs captured their home-opener.

Clarke, playing his first regular season game for the Bulldogs wasted no time in making his presence felt.  The Arkansas transfer scored Butler's first 12 points in the game and led the Bulldogs to an early 12-3 advantage, before picking up two fouls and going to the bench six minutes into the contest.

Without Clarke, Butler turned to freshman Kellen Dunham, junior Khyle Marshall and sophomore Kameron Woods.  Dunham came off the bench to score 10 points, while Marshall and Woods each added six.  The Bulldogs combined to shoot a sizzling 61.5% in the first 20 minutes, while building a 43-26 halftime lead.

"Obviously it felt good to come out and play.  I didn't think it would be as fluid as it was the first 20 minutes," said Butler Head Coach Brad Stevens of the Bulldogs' first half effort.

Things weren't as fluid at the start of the second half.  Elon opened the final period with a 17-4 run to cut Butler's lead to just four points, 47-43.  Butler answered with three-point field goals from Clarke and Dunham in a span of 17 seconds, and the Bulldogs went on to lead by double-figures over the final 11:44.

"When (Elon) came back, that may be as important a time for us as any because you have to respond," noted Stevens.  "I've said all along this team is capable of going on 6-0 and 9-0 runs and they did, and kind of separated the game back when it got to four.  It was Rotnei for one and Kellen for another and now it was ten in a matter of seconds."

Clarke finished the game hitting eight of 16 shots, including five of 10 from beyond the three-point arc.  Dunham hit five of ten attempts from the field and five of five from the free throw line to finish with 18 points, while Marshall hit seven of 11 shots and scored 14 points.

The Bulldogs, led by sophomore Roosevelt Jones, had a commanding 39-20 advantage in rebounding.  Jones, who scored six points in the win, pulled down nine rebounds to lead all players, while sophomore guard Alex Barlow came off the bench with a career-high seven rebounds.  Junior Erik Fromm had six rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench.

Jones also had a career-high six assists in the victory.

The Bulldogs won't have much time to celebrate the season-opening win.  Butler will travel to Xavier for a rare afternoon game on Tuesday, Nov 13.  That contest at the Cintas Center is part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon and will start at 4 p.m. (ET).