After being embarrassed last Saturday, March 2 at VCU, something had to be done to hopefully solve the issues that plagued the Butler Bulldogs for 40 minutes against the Rams. A players-only meeting was held on Sunday, March 3rd. Whatever was said by the seniors and leaders of this squad during that meeting, worked. Butler rolled into Amherst, Massachusetts on Thursday, March 7 and made a statement in beating the UMass Minutemen, 73-62.
Butler was bound and determined to pick up a big road win after last Saturday's performance at VCU. With gritty in-your-face defense and dominant rebounding, there was no stopping the Bulldogs at The Mullins Center.
Junior Khyle Marshall and sophomore Kameron Woods both completely shocked Massachusetts by each scoring 9 points in the first half in leading Butler to a 30-22 halftime lead.
Spreading out the scoring and defending the Minutemen like there was no tomorrow was exactly what the Bulldogs did and it worked like a charm. Keeping UMass at just enough distance to have a comfortable cushion, BU was able to work on some different facets of their game that had been lacking during this slight two-game losing skid to Saint Louis and VCU.
From the 8:07 mark of the first half to 17:29 left in the game, Butler ran off on a 19-6 run to take a 38-24 advantage. Capped off by a Rotnei Clarke three, the Bulldogs were in complete control and didn't look back.
With their lead never getting below eight (twice), the Dawgs were able to stretch their margin to 16 (also twice) en route to holding off the feisty host Minutemen by 11, 73-62.
Butler's victory at UMass helped them find the answer to a question that came about from losses in their previous two games. If Clarke and Smith weren't able to score, who would step up? Answer: Kameron Woods and Khyle Marshall showed that they're very capable of putting points on the board. Freshman Kellen Dunham was blanketed by the UMass defense or Brad Stevens would have gotten more than two points from the sharp-shooter from Pendleton, Indiana.
Fortunately for Butler, Clarke got back on his hot shooting in the second half, scoring 11 of his shared game-high 17 points in the final twenty minutes. Rotnei shot just 3-of-10 overall and 0-for-6 from three before he got his touch back.
Woods became the Bulldogs' x-factor in this big A-10 win at UMass, also scoring a game-high 17 points, knocking down 7 of his 11 field goals. Marshall sparked the offense with 14 points, making 6-of-7 from the floor. Senior Andrew Smith showed up big by chipping in with 13 points (9-13 FTs) and 15 rebounds, not to mention grabbing his 600th career rebound. Sophomore forward Roosevelt Jones had a balanced game with six points, seven boards and eight assists. Sophomore Alex Barlow tallied a career-high four assists.
Keeping the Minutemen off the boards, Butler had a 37-20 advantage, including 18 offensive rebounds. Neither team shot the ball good at all from three-point range, with Butler going 3-for-19 (16%) and UMass just 4-of-18 (22%).
UMass (18-10, 8-7 A10) was led in scoring by Terrell Vinson, who also shared game-high scoring honors with Woods and Clarke, with 17 points. Sampson Carter had 12 on 5-of-6 shooting and Chaz Williams had eight points and eight boards.
Butler (23-7, 10-5 A10) has a pretty tough task on Saturday, as they'll host the Xavier Musketeers (17-12, 9-6 A10). Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. It's Senior Night at Hinkle Fieldhouse and seniors Rotnei Clarke, Andrew Smith, Chase Stigall and Emerson Kampen will be recognized following the game.