Bulldogs Close Out 2012 At Vanderbilt
YEAR END: Butler will try to add to a successful year when it closes out 2012 in Nashville, Tenn., with a game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Dec. 29. The contest at the Commodores' Memorial Gymnasium will tip at 8 p.m. (ET) and will be televised on ESPNU. Butler opened 2012 with a victory at Wright State, 63-62, on Jan. 6. The 12 months since have seen the Bulldogs advance to the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament and the postseason College Basketball Invitational, change conferences, finish runner-up at the Maui Invitational and knock off top-ranked Indiana. Butler (9-2) is making just its second visit ever to Vanderbilt and its first since 1924-25! The Bulldogs picked up their sixth consecutive victory with a 75-67 decision over visiting Evansville in their last outing on Dec. 22. Vanderbilt (5-5) has won three of its last four outings, including two straight at home. Among the Commodores' wins this season is an overtime victory at Xavier. Butler and Vanderbilt will meet again next season at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler is 23-10 since Jan. 1, 2012.
POLLING PLACE: Butler's victory over top-ranked Indiana on Dec. 15 vaulted the Bulldogs into the "Top 25" of both major national polls for the first time this season. The Bulldogs joined the Associated Press "Top 25" at No. 19 and the USA Today Coaches Poll at No. 25. This week's A.P. poll has Butler ranked No. 18, while the Bulldogs are No. 21 in the coaches' poll. Butler has appeared in the national "Top 25" in six of the past seven seasons.
HOLIDAY TREAT: The Bulldogs ended their pre-Christmas schedule at home with a victory over state foe Evansville, 75-67. It was Butler's first win over the Purple Aces in three years, and it gave the Bulldogs a perfect 5-0 mark against teams from Indiana this season. A three-point field goal by senior Rotnei Clarke midway through the first half capped an 8-0 Butler run that broke a 17-17 tie and put the Bulldogs on top for good. Butler then stretched a 35-31 halftime lead to as many as 14 points in the second half, before a late Evansville rally threatened to send the game into overtime for the third consecutive year. Down 67-53 with three-and-a-half minutes remaining, the Aces went on a 14-4 run that trimmed Butler's advantage to 71-67 with 0:26 left. But the Bulldogs ended the threat with four consecutive free throws in the game's final 25 seconds.
BIG LIFT: Senior Andrew Smith continued a strong pre-Christmas surge with 20 points, six rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and a steal in Butler's victory over Evansville. He shared the team scoring lead with senior Rotnei Clarke, while leading the squad in both assists and blocked shots. The four assists matched his career-high, set a year ago against Milwaukee. In the past three games, the 6-11 Butler center has averaged 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, while shooting .704 from the field, .750 from beyond the three-point arc and .750 from the free throw line. He had his first double-double of the season (and the fifth of his career) with 24 points and 10 rebounds at Northwestern.
Andrew Smith has scored in double-figures in each game of Butler's current winning streak.
FAMILIAR LEADER: Butler senior Rotnei Clarke posted his ninth consecutive double-figures scoring performance and shared Butler's scoring lead with 20 points in the Bulldogs' victory over Evansville. He hit three of six three-point field goal attempts in the win, including one that gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead at 64-50 with under five minutes to play. The 6-0 point-guard from Verdigris, Okla., has had at least three three-point field goals in 10 of Butler's 11 games this season. He's scored in double-figures 10 times in 11 games, including a season-high 27 points against Illinois in the championship game of the Maui Invitational, and he's has averaged 18.6 points over Butler's last nine contests. He's had at least a share of Butler's scoring lead in eight of the Bulldogs' first 11 games.
Rotnei Clarke ranks second in the Atlantic 10 Conference in scoring (17.7 ppg).
RESERVE TANK: The Bulldogs have had several players come off the bench with strong performances this season, and the Evansville game was no exception. Sophomore Kameron Woods and freshman Kellen Dunham each played a significant role in Butler's win over the Purple Aces. Woods scored 10 points and led all players with 12 rebounds in 24 minutes of action against the Aces. He hit three of four shots from the floor and four of six from the free throw line, and he added two assists and a blocked shot, while recording his fourth career double-double. His 12 rebounds were a career-high, as were his four free throws made. Dunham chipped in with 13 points and matched his career-high with five rebounds. He scored nine of his points in the first half, helping Butler to a four-point halftime lead. The two Butler players out-scored Evansville's bench, 23-17.
CHARITABLE EFFORT: Butler's bid against Evansville featured a season-best performance at the free throw line. The Bulldogs connected on their first 15 free throw attempts in the game, including all 11 in the first half. Butler finished the game hitting a season-best 23 of 27 (85.2%) from the charity stripe, topping the previous team best of 80% (20-25) against #9 North Carolina at the Maui Invitational. Senior Rotnei Clarke and freshman Kellen Dunham each hit five of five free throws against the Aces, while senior Andrew Smith connected on seven of his nine attempts.
BOARDING PASS: The Bulldogs, led by sophomore Kameron Woods, out-rebounded Evansville, 39-29. Woods led all players with 12 rebounds, including a game-high nine defensive boards. The Bulldogs, who continue to lead the Atlantic 10 Conference in rebounding margin (+7.3), have had a rebounding advantage over their opponent in nine of their first 11 games this season. Butler leads the A-10 in offensive rebounding percentage (.397), while ranking second in the league in defensive rebounding percentage (.714).
DECEMBER STREAK: The Bulldogs have won all five of their December games and enter the Vanderbilt contest with a six-game winning streak. The streak includes four home decisions, one road victory and a neutral court win over top-ranked Indiana. It's the ninth time since Brad Stevens took over as Butler's head coach that the Bulldogs have had a winning streak of at least six games.
Butler has averaged 81.3 points over its last six games.
•Senior Andrew Smith is the only current college basketball player who has played in two Division I national championship games.
•Andrew Smith played in his 100th career game in Butler's season-opener. Smith has started 78 of Butler's last 80 games, including both Final Four games in 2011.
•Andrew Smith ranks second in the Atlantic 10 Conference in field goal percentage (.592). Smith is shooting .723 during Butler's current winning streak.
•Andrew Smith stands sixth on Butler's all-time list for field goal percentage (.552).
•Butler is 8-0 this season when Andrew Smith scores in double-figures.
•Andrew Smith needs 123 points to become the 34th Butler player to score 1,000 career points.
•Andrew Smith needs ten rebounds to reach 500 for his Butler career.
•Senior Rotnei Clarke has been named to the watch list for the 2013 Bob Cousy Award, presented to the nation's top point-guard. Finalists will be announced in January.
•Rotnei Clarke played in his 100th career game in Butler's win over IUPUI. He had his 100th career start one game later at Northwestern.
•Rotnei Clarke leads the Atlantic 10 Conference and ranks fourth in the NCAA Division I in three-point field goals made per game (4.0).
•Rotnei Clarke has averaged 3.1 three-point field goals per game for his career.
•Rotnei Clarke has hit a three-point field goal in each of his last 23 collegiate games, dating back to his final season at Arkansas.
•Rotnei Clarke scored 36 points in his last visit to Vanderbilt in his junior season at Arkansas. Clarke hit 12 of 16 shots from the field, including six of eight from beyond the three-point arc, to help Arkansas beat the No. 19-ranked Commodores. It was his top scoring performance in an SEC game.
•Rotnei Clarke ranks seventh in the A-10 and 20th in the NCAA in three-point field goal percentage (.454).
•Senior Chase Stigall needs one three 3-point field goal to reach 100 for his career.
•Sophomore Roosevelt Jones posted his third consecutive double-figures scoring performance with 12 points against Evansville. Jones hit five of six shots from the field and both of his free throw attempts in the win.
•Roosevelt Jones is shooting .652 from the field over Butler's last three games.
•Roosevelt Jones ranks tenth in the Atlantic 10 Conference in field goal shooting (.548).
•Freshman Kellen Dunham leads the A-10 and ranks third in the NCAA Division I in free throw shooting (.951). He had a streak of 26 consecutive free throws made earlier this season.
•Butler's 23 free throws made against Evansville were a season-high.
•Butler had five players score in double-figures in the victory over Evansville. It was the fourth time in the past six games that five Butler players reached twin-digits in scoring.
•Butler has five "Top 10" wins under head coach Brad Stevens. The Bulldogs defeated #4 Syracuse and #7 Kansas State in the 2010 NCAA Tournament and #4 Pittsburgh in the 2011 national tournament, prior to beating #1 Indiana and #9 North Carolina this season.
•Butler has won its last 13 games when holding its opponent under 60 points.
•Butler is 57-6 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting at least nine three-point field goals in a game.