#11 Butler hit the road in Atlantic 10 conference play on Saturday, February 16 to the Bronx in New York City to take on a struggling Fordham Ram squad and was barely able to escape a packed (3,200) Rose Hill Gym with a slim 68-63 win.
Andrew Smith found himself back in the starting lineup after missing Wednesday's game at home against Charlotte, a loss (71-67) that Butler would love to have back. Smith was unable to play against the 49ers and wasn't about to miss another game.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first four minutes of action. After that, the host Rams woke up and thanks in big part to Christ Gaston and Ryan Rhoomes, fought back to defend their home court with 13-2 run to take a 13-9 lead with 10:47 remaining in the first half.
A Rotnei Clarke three and a Kameron Woods dunk, BU retained the lead slightly (14-13), but Fordham was bound and determined to be a thorn in Butler's side for a solid 40 minutes.
The Rams took another lead at 22-17 from a 9-6 stretch. But, with two three-pointers by Clarke and Kellen Dunham, respectively, Butler got back in front 23-22 with 3:38 until halftime.
Clarke netted five more to his total before intermission, giving Butler a 30-26 advantage at the break.
Fordham sure wasn't playing like a team that had only six overall wins and just two A-10 victories. At this point in the season, the Rams have the mindset that they are the spoiler and that's exactly the role they showed Butler on Saturday.
On a mission, Fordham busted out of the locker room after halftime ready to play. The Ram faithful got to their feet during a 9-0 blanking of the Bulldogs to start the second half to take a 35-30 lead.
Butler had seen enough and after a brief timeout, took command of the game. An 18-4 run that was sparked by Roosevelt Jones scoring eight during that span, the Bulldogs were now out in front with a little comfort at 48-39.
The lead grew to ten (51-41) with just over nine minutes left. BU's lead stayed under ten the rest of the way. The Rams cut their deficit to trailing by just one possession three times in the final minute at 64-61, 65-63 and 66-63 before finally bowing out to the relentless #11 Butler Bulldogs, 68-63.
Despite already eclipsing the 20-loss plateau, Fordham had a decent 6-6 home record before this loss to #11 Butler.
The Fordham Rams (6-20, 2-9 A10) were led in scoring by Chris Gaston with a team-high 21 points and six rebounds on 9-of-17 field goals. Mandell Thomas (12) and Travion Leonard (10) also reached double-figures.
The victorious Butler Bulldogs were anchored in the scoring column by Rotnei Clarke, who had 22 points, along with six boards and four assists, while going 6-of-16 from the floor and 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Roosevelt Jones had another solid game with 13 points and eight rebounds and Andrew Smith made a nice return to the starting lineup after a one-game absense, scoring 12 points on three field goals and knocking down a stellar 6-for-6 at the charity stripe. Kameron Woods also chipped in with 10 rebounds with his seven points and Kellen Dunham notched nine, both with significant minutes off the Bulldog bench.
#11 Butler (21-5, 8-3 A10) heads home on Tuesday, February 19 to host the Duquesne Dukes (8-17, 1-10 A10), who are currently sitting at last in the Atlantic 10 conference standings. Butler is in 3rd, right behind leader VCU (21-5, 9-2 A10) and Saint Louis (19-5, 8-2 A10), who comes to Indianapolis on Friday.
Tuesday's battle with Duquesne tips off at 7 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The game can be seen locally on My-INDY-TV 23 and can also be heard on the home of Butler basketball, 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis.