No. 9 Butler Returns To Conference Play At La Salle
RETURN VISIT: Butler is returning to Philadelphia, Pa., for the second time in two weeks, this time to face La Salle in a conference game on Wednesday, Jan. 23. The Atlantic 10 Conference contest is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ET) at La Salle's Tom Gola Arena. Butler is coming off a stunning, last-second, 64-63, win over nationally-ranked Gonzaga in the feature contest on ESPN's College GameDay. That win, in front of a sold-out crowd at Hinkle Fieldhouse and a national television audience, was Butler's 13th straight and it lifted the Bulldogs to 16-2 on the season. La Salle split a pair of A-10 games last week, defeating Dayton at home, 72-70, before falling at Xavier, 70-63. The Explorers (12-5, 2-2 A-10), who rank third in the A-10 in team scoring offense (72.8 ppg), are 8-1 at home this season, including six straight wins in Tom Gola Arena. The Bulldogs, who began A-10 play at Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia on Jan. 9, are meeting La Salle for the first time since 1999 and for the first time ever in Tom Gola Arena. Following the La Salle game, Butler will return to Indianapolis to host Temple on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Butler is off to its best start since 2008-09, when the Bulldogs won 19 of their first 20.
POLL CLIMBING: Butler is ranked in the "Top 10" of both the Associated Press national poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time since Feb. 8, 2008. The Bulldogs are No. 9 this week in both the A.P. poll and in the coaches poll. Butler's victory over No. 1 Indiana on Dec. 15 vaulted the Bulldogs into the "Top 25" of both major national polls for the first time since November of 2010. The Bulldogs joined the Associated Press "Top 25" at No. 19 and the USA Today Coaches Poll at No. 25.
Butler is ranked in the national "Top 25" for the sixth consecutive week.
SUCCESS STREAK: The Bulldogs, unbeaten since returning from Hawaii in late November, enter this week's action with a 13-game winning streak. That stretch includes eight home decisions, four road victories and a neutral court win over top-ranked Indiana. It's the fourth time since Brad Stevens took over as Butler's head coach that the Bulldogs have had a winning streak of 11 or more games.
The Bulldogs have tied the fourth-longest winning streak in school history.
ROAD TEST: The Bulldogs are playing on the road for the third time in their first four Atlantic 10 Conference games. And all three road games have come against teams picked in the top half of the A-10 preseason poll! Butler won its first two league road games at preseason conference favorite Saint Joseph's and at Dayton. Overall, the Bulldogs have won four of five road games.
GAMEDAY THRILLER: ESPN could not have scripted a more dramatic finish than what it delivered nationally at the end of the Butler-Gonzaga game. Center Kelly Olynyk hit two free throws with four seconds remaining to give Gonzaga a 63-62 lead, and the visitors looked to have survived the road challenge when Butler was called for traveling on the ensuing in-bounds play. But the host Bulldogs weren't finished. Forward Roosevelt Jones stole the Gonzaga in-bounds pass at midcourt, drove toward the Butler basket and lofted a "floater" from 10-feet out as the final buzzer sounded. The ball curled through the net to give Butler a 64-63 victory, and a swarm of students engulfed Butler's players on the court in a wild celebration. The game was tied seven times and featured 13 lead changes, including six in the final two minutes.
TOP 10: Butler's victory over No. 8 Gonzaga was the school-record third this season against a team ranked in the "Top 10." The Bulldogs defeated #9 North Carolina at the Maui Invitational and then beat top-ranked Indiana at the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic. Only No. 1 ranked Duke has beaten as many "Top 10" teams this year.
CONFERENCE RECOGNITION: Forward Roosevelt Jones put together back-to-back stellar performances for the Bulldogs last week, and his efforts earned him Atlantic 10 Conference Co-Player of the Week honors. The 6-4 sophomore from O'Fallon, Ill., began the week by recording his second double-double of the season with 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds to lead Butler past A-10 foe Richmond, 62-47. Then, he scored a team-high 20 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, to lift Butler past No. 8 Gonzaga and cap off the first day of ESPN's College GameDay schedule. Jones, who earned the A-10 honor for the second time this season, averaged 15.0 points and 8.5 rebounds for the week, while adding eight assists and four steals. He shared the weekly recognition with Treveon Graham of VCU, who averaged 22.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the Rams' two wins.
FIRST DEFENSE: Butler held high-scoring Gonzaga 17 points under its season scoring average. Gonzaga entered the game averaging 80.3 points per game, which ranked eighth in the NCAA Division I. The only time Gonzaga scored fewer points this season was in a 57-49 win over Clemson.
HEALTH WATCH: Butler scoring leader Rotnei Clarke, who suffered a game-ending injury in the first half of Butler's win at Dayton, sat out both Butler games last week. The 6-0 senior crashed into the basket support at Dayton after being fouled while attempting a lay-up, and he was diagnosed with a severely sprained neck. His status is being evaluated daily, but he won't be available for Butler's game at La Salle. Clarke scored in double-figures 12 times in Butler's first 16 games this season, and he had at least a share of Butler's scoring lead in 10 of those contests. The Arkansas transfer, who scored a Butler career-high 28 points while leading the Bulldogs past Saint Joseph's in the A-10 opener for both teams, has scored 20 or more points six times this season and 18 times during his collegiate career.
BOARD WORK: Butler out-rebounded both of its opponents last week, including a +33 rebounding advantage over Richmond (53-20). The Bulldogs have had a rebounding advantage in 10 of their last 11 games and in 15 total games this season.
Butler leads the Atlantic 10 Conference in rebounding margin (+8.1).
•The Gonzaga contest was the first Butler game in Hinkle Fieldhouse matching two "Top 15" teams.
•Senior Andrew Smith has started 85 of Butler's last 87 games, including both NCAA Final Four games in 2011.
•Andrew Smith is shooting 62.1% during Butler's current winning streak.
•Andrew Smith stands sixth on Butler's all-time list for field goal percentage (.551).
•Andrew Smith has averaged 13.6 points and 6.0 rebounds during Butler's current winning streak. Smith had a team-high seven rebounds against Gonzaga.
•Butler is 11-0 this season when Andrew Smith scores in double-figures.
•Andrew Smith needs 38 points to become the 34th Butler player to score 1,000 career points.
•Senior Rotnei Clarke ranks second in the A-10 and seventh in the NCAA Division I in three-point field goals made per game (3.7). Clarke had at least four three-pointers in 10 of Butler's first 16 games.
•Rotnei Clarke ranks fifth in the Atlantic 10 Conference in three-point field goal percentage (.444).
•Sophomore Roosevelt Jones has had at least a share of the team lead in assists in seven of Butler's last nine games. He's averaged 3.9 assists over that stretch, including a career-high seven assists against #1 Indiana.
•Roosevelt Jones is averaging 11.6 points and 6.0 rebounds in Butler's last 13 games.
•Roosevelt Jones has hit 33 of 52 (.635) free throws in Butler's last nine games. He shot 40% from the free throw line through Butler first nine games.
•Sophomore point-guard Alex Barlow had a career-high six assists in Butler's victory over #8 Gonzaga. The 6-0 guard also played a career-high 33 minutes for the second consecutive game.
•Alex Barlow has had at least one steal in 13 of Butler's last 14 games. He leads the Bulldogs in steals on the season.
•Freshman Kellen Dunham was one of two Butler players to score in double-figures in both of the Bulldogs' games last week. He had 11 points against Richmond and 14 in the win over #8 Gonzaga.
•Kellen Dunham leads the A-10 and ranks fifth in the NCAA Division I in free throw shooting (.921).
•Butler is ranked 15th in the NCAA Division I in team rebounding margin (+8.1).
•Butler hit 22 of 44 (.500) shots in the victory over No. 8 Gonzaga. The Bulldogs currently rank second in the A-10 in team field goal shooting (.462).
•Butler has won its last 17 games when holding its opponent under 60 points.
•Butler has six "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, #8 Gonzaga and #9 North Carolina this season.
•Butler is 58-6 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting at least nine three-point field goals in a game.