The Charlotte 49ers knew there would be a soft spot in the #11 Butler Bulldog defense and they went after that and didn't stop all night long. Butler center Andrew Smith was sitting out the first of a two-game stint with an abdominal injury that he suffered Saturday at George Washington. Butler came up on the short end on Wednesday, February 13 to Charlotte without Smith, 71-67.
This four-point loss to the 49ers snapped Butler's 12-game home court winning streak at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Some are calling it a bad loss, but in all reality, it's going to be one of those games that helps Butler throughout the remainder of the season. Charlotte improved itself to 18-6 overall and 6-4 in Atlantic 10 play with the big road win over Butler.
The 49ers shot without hesitation and shot the basketball well all night long, going 26-48 from the floor for 54%, while also outrebounding Butler 34-32.
The only thing that kept Butler in the contest was the fact that they shot decent (10-29) from three-point range, but they otherwise shot poor (39%), making just 23 of their 59 field goal attempts.
With Smith missing from the lineup, somehow his teammates would have to make up his 11.4 points per game and 5.4 rebounds and that did not happen against Charlotte. Roosevelt Jones did his part by knocking down 17 points and 9 boards on 7-of-13 shooting, but was just 3-for-6 at the charity stripe. Erik Fromm came down with a season-high 13, while also corralling nine rebounds, nailing three treys in just 24 minutes of action in starting in Smith's place.
Butler only trailed 29-27 at halftime, but there was obviously plenty of time for Charlotte to work the magic that they performed and for Butler to possible make a comeback on their home floor if needed.
Charlotte held a slight edge for most of the second half until they widened the gap for a 10-point lead (59-49) with 4:26 left on a Pierria Henry jumper.
Rotnei Clarke decided it was time that he bring the Bulldogs back into this ballgame and quickly. In the final four minutes, Clarke poured in 15 of his game-high 18 points to get Butler back within a one-point deficit (68-67). The 6'0 senior put all that he could into that run to spark Butler's comeback, but it wasn't enough, as the 49ers still had plenty in their tank to hold on for a four-point win, 71-67.
"I knew Charlotte coming in was going to be really hard for us to match up with, in large part because their strengths are certainly something that we counter better with Andrew (Smith) than without him," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens.
Stevens was right. Butler had no answers on defense for what Charlotte brought at them, especially when it came to post play, where they're normally used to Andrew Smith scooping up rebounds, steals and second-chance points in the paint.
The visiting 49ers (18-6, 6-4 A-10) were led in scoring by Pierria Henry with a team-high 17 points on 6-12 shooting. Willie Clayton and Chris Braswell each netted 11 points and Darion Clark added 10. With those four reaching double-figures, they combined to shoot 19-33 as a quartet for 57%.
Butler (20-5, 7-3 A-10) was led by leading scorer Rotnei Clarke and his game-high 18 points, going 5-of-13 from three-point land, four of those in the final minutes. Roosevelt Jones finished with 17 points and 9 rebounds before fouling out in the closing seconds. Erik Fromm, who has been playing some inspired basketball since the recent passing of his father from cancer, scored a season-high 13, also grabbed nine rebounds and drilled 3-of-6 of his 3's. Kellen Dunham started in place of Alex Barlow and had a 12-point night, making 2 of his 5 three's and going 4-for-4 from the foul line.
The Butler Bulldogs head to New York City and will face the Fordham Rams (6-19, 2-8 A-10) in Manhattan on Saturday, February 16 for a 4 p.m. tip. The Atlantic 10 matchup can be seen on CBS College Sports Network and can be heard locally on 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis, with Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play) and Nick Gardner (color analyst) on the radio call.