After not being able to play in Butler's regular season matchup at LaSalle, Rotnei Clarke was chomping at the bit to get his shot at the Explorers and what better time than in the Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinals. Dropping the only season battle between the two at LaSalle (54-53), Butler got redemption by posting a 69-58 victory Friday afternoon.
Losing in Philadelphia by one in the final seconds on January 23, 5-seed Butler was completely focused on winning, but knew it wouldn't be an easy task.
The lead was tossed back and forth a few times and tied four times, but the Bulldogs had a two-point lead at the break, 37-35.
Butler had its biggest margin of 12 points with 5:59 left (64-52), but LaSalle wasn't going to go away quietly. Three Jerrell Wright free throws and a Sam Mills triple brought the Explorers back to within six (64-58). But, over the final five minutes, it was all about some great Butler defense and LaSalle throwing up prayers in hopes of some shots falling in. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, that didn't happen. Rotnei Clarke canned a trey and Roosevelt Jones knocked down a jumper to bring it back to double-digits and how the game ended, 69-58.
A seasoned squad like Butler knew exactly what it would take to come out with the quarterfinal win and that's exactly what they did down the stretch, running away with a 69-58 win. This victory advanced fifth-seeded Butler to a third meeting of the season with Saint Louis.
Tyrone Garland led LaSalle (21-9) with a game-high 17, followed by Tyreek Duren with 16 and Jerrell Wright with 14. As of the start of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, LaSalle is projected to make the NCAA Tournament field, but we'll find out tomorrow night during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show at 6 p.m.
Butler (26-7) had five players in double-figures and almost had a sixth. Rotnei Clarke led the Bulldogs with a team-high 14, knocking down 6-for-16 from the floor. Khyle Marshall had 13, while making six of his seven attempts. Andrew Smith had a solid game with 11 points and 8 rebounds, with a 5-for-5 performance from the free throw line. Roosevelt Jones and Kameron Woods (off the bench) both had 10 points, but Jones turned the ball over 7 times and Woods added 9 rebounds. Kellen Dunham had 9 points on 3 three-pointers. Two big factors really kept Butler over the top. BU outrebounded LaSalle 41-23 and they were 10-of-10 from the foul line.
The Bulldogs advanced to Saturday's semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament against 1-seed Saint Louis, who beat Butler twice during the regular season.