The Atlantic 10 conference keeps getting more and more attention these days. First, it's Butler making the big splash hosting ESPN's College Gameday on January 19. Next, Saint Louis makes its presence known by beating Butler twice, along with VCU to stand alone atop the conference standings.
This was a highly anticipated rematch of their 2011 Final Four national semifinal matchup, which Butler won 70-62, en route to playing in their second straight national championship game. Saturday, March 2nd's road trip to Richmond, Virginia for #21 Butler was looked at as no different of a matchup. Butler has been slipping lately and VCU cracked the top 25 this week and trails Saint Louis by just one game in the standings with one week to go in the regular season.
Butler was down early to the host Rams and were never able to climb out of the hole that they created. Trailing 11-2 quick and then 11-6 just four-plus minutes into action, the Bulldogs had no answer for a lot of things that were being thrown at them by VCU.
Between VCU's smothering defense and suffocating full-court pressure, Butler found themselves unable to handle that pressure and wound up turning the ball over 14 times in the first half and 23 total for the game.
The Rams were so quick on defense that 17 of Butler's 23 turnovers were steals by the stout VCU defense, including 5 by Darius Theus, while five other Rams had two steals each.
Trailing 13-6 with 13 minutes left in the first half, Butler was simply dominated for the rest of the half. VCU jaunted off on a 32-15 run to take a commanding lead into the locker room, 45-21.
Butler started the second half on a 7-0 run, but there was no way that VCU was going to let the Bulldogs back into this game. The Rams took over from that point, keeping up their domination on a 39-24 spree the rest of the way to blow out Butler, 84-52.
Shaka Smart's squad kept their foot on the gas and were on a mission to make a statement that VCU basketball wasn't just a fluke by getting itself from the NCAA Tournament's Opening Round all the way to the Final Four in 2011 and .
The constant speed and endurance of VCU on both ends of the court completely stymied the Butler Bulldogs, who have now lost three of their last five games.
The Dawgs were led in scoring by Roosevelt Jones with a team-high 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Khyle Marshall had 13 points and six boards. Kellen Dunham (7) and Andrew Smith (6) both chipped in, but had dismal performances. Kameron Woods led all with 10 rebounds. The most surprising stat was that Rotnei Clarke was held to just 5 points on 2-for-8 field goals, playing just 22 minutes.
Victorious VCU managed to spread out their offense and get four players into double-figures. Troy Daniels led all scorers with a game-high 20 points, was 5-for-9 from the floor (4-8 on 3's) and knocked down all six of his free throw attempts. Briante Weber, Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham each had 11 points for the Rams.
Overall, the Bulldogs were dominated in just about every category. Only converting 41% (20-49) overall and just 21% (3-14) from three were pretty staggering for Butler, but it was their horrid free throw shooting (45%), going 9-of-20, that helped VCU keep extending its leads. The only positive that came out of this for BU was that they out-rebounded the Rams, 42-28.
Free throw shooting (16-20), three-point field goals (10-23) and steals (17) that turned into a majority of Butler's giveaways (23), were big reasons that VCU was able to get the job done in front of a capacity crowd (7.693) at the Siegel Center in Richmond.
#25 VCU (23-6, 11-3 A10) will move up in the top 25 polls this week with this 32-point thumping of #21 Butler. The Rams are currently the #2 seed in the Atlantic 10, right behind Saint Louis. The face tough opponents this week in hosting Richmond (17-12, 7-7) on Wednesday and going to Temple (21-8, 9-5) on Sunday.
#21 Butler (22-7, 9-5 A10) has possibly seen its last stint in the top 25, but sits currently as the #4 seed in the A-10 and this week's final two regular season games won't be easy. They'll head to Amhurst, MA to face the Massachusetts Minutemen (18-9, 8-6 A10) on Thursday, March 7 for a 7 p.m. tipoff. Saturday, the Bulldogs will host a rematch with the Xavier Musketeers (16-12, 8-6) with a 6:30 tip time at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.