Three Thoughts as Butler Overpowered RichmondPosted by WCarey on January 16th, 2013
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Richmond and Butler. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.
Butler has not lost a game since falling to Illinois in the championship game of the Maui Invitational on November 21, but the Bulldogs did suffer a loss this past Saturday when leading scorer Rotnei Clarke experienced a sprained neck in the team’s win at Dayton. It became known Monday night that Clarke would miss two games — Wednesday versus Richmond and Saturday night against #9 Gonzaga — as he recovers from the injury. In tonight’s game with Richmond, the Bulldogs proved there was a lot more to their team than just Clarke as they led the whole game on their way to a dominant 62-47 victory. The following are three thoughts from Wednesday’s game:
- Butler completely outworked Richmond on the boards (and that might be an understatement) – Butler outrebounded Richmond by a 53-20 margin tonigh — think about that. Butler had as many offensive rebounds as Richmond had total rebounds. The Bulldogs effectively held the Spiders to just six offensive boards. Those 20 offensive rebounds by the Bulldogs led to 21 second-chance points. Butler’s inside presence, led by starters Andrew Smith and Roosevelt Jones along with reserve Kameron Woods, grabbed a total of 26 rebounds while also playing hard-nosed defense that prevented the Spiders from getting anything going in the post. On a night where the Bulldogs shot just 37.5% from the field, they used their dominant rebounding effort to pave the way to an important conference victory.
- Andrew Smith’s production has been key to Butler’s success – In Butler’s December 15 win over Indiana, Smith went toe-to-toe with National Player of the Year candidate Cody Zeller and held his own – even outplaying him for stretches of the upset victory. Smith has proven that his performance was no fluke, as he has become a very important part of the team’s success on both ends of the court. Since Atlantic 10 play began, Smith has taken his game to an even higher level. In the conference opener at Saint Joseph’s, he tallied 24 points and collected 10 rebounds. In the Bulldogs’ win at Dayton, Smith’s senior leadership along with his 13 points helped lead the team through the adversity of Clarke’s injury to another important road win. Against Richmond, Smith turned in another quality performance by controlling the paint and tallying 15 points and seven rebounds. The Atlantic 10 is going to provide the Bulldogs with stiff competition each night, so they are going to need Smith to remain a strong inside presence in order to keep winning.
- The “Butler Way” continues in Indianapolis – Sure, Butler’s Final Four teams of 2010 and 2011 had star power in the form of Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard, and Shelvin Mack, but the Bulldogs would not have been able to accomplish what they did without strong contributions from their role players. The same thing has rung true for this year’s squad as each player has successfully fulfilled his role on the squad. While Clarke and Smith are undoubtedly the team’s go-to guys, others have stepped up and provided copious contributions to the team’s success – not all of which show up in the box score. Sophomore Jones is the “glue guy” who has the ability to play and guard several positions. Junior Khyle Marshall, the team’s second-leading scorer, is shooting a very efficient 56.7% from the field. After playing just 77 total minutes as a freshman, sophomore Alex Barlow has stepped into the starting lineup and continues to improve each game. While Clarke is the team’s most feared three-point shooter, freshman Kellen Dunham has proven that he is also very dangerous from behind the arc. While star power dominates much of the conversation about college basketball, it is important to realize that a team cannot be successful unless its role players are fulfilling their functions. With Butler, that has not been a problem in the past and it continues not to be a problem now.