Bulldogs Edge Xavier In Regular Season Finale

Bulldogs Edge Xavier In Regular Season Finale
Senior Rotnei Clarke (Photo by John Fetcho)

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Senior Rotnei Clarke scored a game-high 21 points and sophomore Kameron Woods came off the bench with 15 to help lift Butler to a 67-62 victory over visiting Xavier in the final regular season game for both teams on Saturday (March 9).  The win gave the Bulldogs a tie for third place in the final Atlantic 10 Conference standings.

Clarke, playing his final game in Hinkle Fieldhouse, scored 17 points after intermission to fuel the Butler win.  Woods added 10 points in the final 20 minutes.  Both players hit clutch free throws in the final minute of play to secure the victory.

The win boosted Butler to 24-7 on the season and 11-5 in the A-10.  And it came against a Xavier team that had beaten the Bulldogs, 62-47, on Nov. 13.

"We kind of used the Xavier game as a measuring stick from November 'til now, so I knew our guys would be engaged mentally and be ready to play.  I didn't what that would mean from a results standpoint," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens.

"Both teams played really well.  Both teams played really hard.  We were just lucky enough to make the plays in the last two minutes," added the Butler coach.

The Bulldogs, ahead by as many as 10 points in the second half, found themselves trailing, 52-49, with just over six minutes remaining after a 15-2 Xavier run.  The Musketeers (17-13, 9-7 A-10) stretched the margin to 54-50 with 5:26 left, and that's when Clarke and Woods stepped up.

Woods tipped in a missed shot by Clarke to cut Xavier lead to two, and then Clarke hit a pair of free throws with 4:29 remaining to tie the game.  The senior guard followed with a lay-up and Xavier never regained the lead.

The score was tied at 60-60 with under a minute to go when freshman Kellen Dunham sank a pair of free throws to give Butler the lead for good.  Clarke followed with a pair of free throws with 0:18 remaining and senior Andrew Smith hit a single charity toss with 0:11 left to make it 65-60.  Xavier's Semaj Christon answered with two free throws with 0:07 on the clock, before Woods closed out the scoring with two free throws.

Clarke led the Bulldogs in scoring for the 20th time this season.  He topped 20 points for the tenth time, and Butler was 9-1 in those games.  Woods, coming off a career-high 17 points in Butler's win at Massachusetts, hit six of seven shots from the floor and three of four from the free throw line, while recording his second-highest career total.

In the first meeting with Xavier this season, Clarke and Woods combined for just nine points.

Christon led the Musketeers with 20 points, while forward Isaiah Philmore chipped in with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

The game was the final home contest for Butler's four seniors, Clarke, Smith, Chase Stigall and Emerson Kampen.  All four were in the Bulldogs' starting lineup.  Smith, Stigall and Kampen have helped Butler to 107 victories over the past four seasons, while Clarke has contributed to a 77% winning percentage this season.  All four were honored in an on-court presentation after the victory.

Butler now turns its attention to the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., March 14-17.  The Bulldogs will enter the tournament as either the No. 4 of No. 5 seed, depending upon the outcome the VCU at Temple game on Sunday, March 10.