Second Half Carries Butler To NCAA Third Round
LEXINGTON, KY. -- Seniors Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith helped lead Butler to a 47-point second half and Butler held off Bucknell to post a 68-56 victory in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship at Rupp Arena on Thursday, March 21. The victory sends the Bulldogs to the third round of the national tournament against Marquette on Saturday (March 23).
Clarke scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the final 20 minutes, while Smith had 12 of his 14 points after intermission. The two combined to hit 12 of 14 free throws in the final five minutes to help the Bulldogs secure the tournament win.
The Bulldogs needed a big second half effort to overcome a determined Bucknell (28-6) squad. The Bison, who trailed most of the first half, rallied from an 11-point deficit and eventually took a six-point, 37-31, lead on the strength of an 11-0 run.
But the Bulldogs answered with their own 22-5 run to stretch the lead back to 11 points, and Butler held its advantage at the free throw line in the final five minutes.
"I told (our team) in the locker room, there's a lot of teams in this tournament that wouldn't be able to withstand a 16-point swing and then have a 16 point swing of their own," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens. "I'm really proud of the way they stuck together, and I'm proud of the way they played, led by our seniors, but everyone played pretty well."
The sixth-seeded Bulldogs, who improved to 27-8 on the season, struggled to score early in the contest and wound up matching their season-low with just 21 points in the first half. Sophomore Roosevelt Jones led the effort with nine points.
But thanks to a strong performance at the defensive end, Butler carried a seven-point lead to the locker room at halftime.
"It may not have been aesthetic the entire game, missing our first 13 threes. But our defense was really good in the first half," added the Butler coach.
The Bison, fueled by forward Joe Willman, chopped Butler's lead early in the second half and eventually took a lead at 32-31. Willman hit a jumper to give Bucknell its biggest lead at 37-31 with 10:17 remaining.
Bucknell's last lead came at 40-39, before Smith hit a jumper to put Butler in front for good. The Bulldogs maintained their lead by hitting 22 of 25 free throws in the final 20 minutes.
Clarke, playing in his first NCAA Tournament game, wound up hitting five of 14 shots from the field, including a pair of three-pointers, and five of six from the free throw line.
Smith, who helped limit Bucknell leading scorer Mike Muscala to just nine points, finished with a career-high 16 rebounds, including 15 defensive rebounds. Jones finished with 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists, while sophomore Alex Barlow added a career-high ten points and four steals.
Willman led the Bison with a game-high 20 points.
The Bulldogs will be facing Marquette, a future conference foe, for the second time this season. Butler defeated the Golden Eagles, 72-71, on a three-point field goal by Clarke at the buzzer in the opening round of the Maui Invitational last November.