St. Bonaventure proved why the Atlantic 10 could get as many as 6 or 7 bids to the NCAA Tournament in March. The Bonnies will likely end up not being in that group that makes the "Big Dance," but as was seen Wednesday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, they won't go away quietly. Butler used some surges and great shooting to keep St. Bonaventure at a distance, running away eventually with a 77-58 win.
For the #14 Butler, it took seasoned veterans to guide the Bulldogs in the right direction and to another A-10 victory, moving them to 12-0 at home this season.
As per usual, it was Rotnei Clarke leading Butler in scoring with 17 points, but he also had handfuls of rebounds and assists both, while shooting 6-12 overall and 3-8 from outside-the-arc.
It was St. Bonaventure's first time playing Butler and more importantly, their first trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse. They weren't afraid at all. Taking a lead at 9-7, just four minutes in, the Bonnies wouldn't hold the lead for long. Butler retook the edge 20-13 with a 13-2 run that was aided by Chase Stigall (two 3's), Kellen Dunham (one three) and a couple baskets by Kameron Woods.
It was slim, but Butler slowly built its lead back up to nine at halftime, 39-30.
Not even a minute into the second, Khyle Marshall ignited the crowd at Hinkle with a slam dunk, giving Butler its first double-digit margin of the night at 41-30.
Jordan Gathers scored two to get the Bonnie deficit under 10 (41-32), but that wouldn't last long, as Butler would keep it above ten the rest of the way. The Bulldogs pulled away, turning this into a route over St. Bonaventure, 77-58.
Demitrius Conger led all players with a game-high 18 points on 5-6 shooting and 7-8 from the free throw line. Chris Johnson and Marquise Simmons both chipped in 9 each for the Bonnies.
The loss drops St. Bonaventure to 10-11 overall and 3-5 in A-10 play. #14 Butler (19-4, 6-2), on the other hand, now sits atop a three-way tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 with VCU (18-5, 6-2) and Saint Louis (17-5, 6-2). Butler might want to think about winning out in the conference. They already own a 17-point loss at Saint Louis and won't play VCU until they visit the Rams on Saturday, March 2.
With Clarke having a team-high 17, there were plenty of others that picked up the rest of the points to spread the wealth for the Bulldogs. Andrew Smith had 13 and seven rebounds, a pair of assists and three steals. Chase Stigall seemed more than happy to contribute his 12 points, going 3-5 from three-point land, while also grabbing four boards and dishing out a couple of assists. Khyle Marshall kept accountable with 12 of his own (5-5 field goals), not to mention his thunderous one-handed dunk that was #3 on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays. Kellen Dunham 9 points and Roosevelt Jones, Woods, Erik Fromm and Alex Barlow all combined for the remaining Butler scoring.
#14 Butler continues Atlantic 10 play this Saturday, February 9 as they take a trip to Washington, D.C. to face the George Washington Colonials (11-10, 5-3 A-10). The game is set for a 2 p.m. tipoff in our nation's capitol and can be seen nationally on Comcast Sportsnet Chicago.