For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy - August 12, 1980
Game #9-030: Elon at Butler BulldogsNovember 10, 2012 2:00 pm
Kennedy's words marked the end of his presidential aspirations, but they still ring true for me as the reflection of optimism associated with a new opportunity. As teams all across the country began their 2012-13 season this past weekend, each and every one did so with a dream. For all of our teams except Mercer and Columbia, the last campaign ended with a loss, but even the season-ending win for those teams was not the satisfaction of their ultimate goal. So, after several months of hiatus, it is once more time for the basketball campaign to begin its perpetual cycle - the work resumes, the hope continues, and the dream is renewed once again.
The dreams are renewed as well for those of us who are fans of the game. Our teams will be rejuvenated with new talent. We don't know for sure how good these new players will be, but since we've rarely (if ever) seen them fail, we feel justified in having very high hopes for them. Likewise, our imperfect heroes who return from the season before have had the entire off-season to remedy their flaws, so it's natural for us to expect them to show significant improvement as well. So it is that dreams beget disappointments, but yet we cannot stop ourselves from dreaming. Yep, this game will hurt you, and that pain is also part of the perpetual cycle.
For both the Elon Phoenix and the Butler Bulldogs, the new season presents some very new challenges. Elon returns four starters from last year's 15-16 squad and expectations are high for them to be contenders in the Southern Conference. They appear to have a good chance to participate in a post-season tournament for the first time since they moved to Division I. Meanwhile, Butler has left the Horizon League for the Atlantic 10/14/16, a move that keeps them on the blue side of the red line, albeit in a new neighborhood with a rather purplish hue.
Elon was well represented at this season opener by a small but vocal contingent of fans, mainly friends and family of junior guard Jack Isenbarger. Isenbarger hails from nearby Zionsville, Indiana, which is also the hometown of Butler's Coach Brad Stevens. In the days leading up to the game, Stevens spoke often of his appreciation for Isenbarger's game, doing so while conjuring a game plan to make the young man's day as difficult as possible.
The enduring memory of last year's Butler team was their repeated struggle to make shots from the perimeter. With that fresh in my mind, I experienced a bit of shock in seeing a pre-season Basketball Times article suggesting that (in their opinion) two of the nation's ten best shooters would be playing for Butler this season. Newcomers Rotnei Clarke, a 6'0" senior transfer from Arkansas and 6'6" freshman Kellen Dunham are indeed expected to provide much-needed skills in that area to complement the returnees from last year, but the degree of this hype seems quite significant.
While it didn't take long for Clarke and Dunham to make an impact, it was another Butler newcomer who first captured my attention. Butler Blue 3, who made a cameo appearance last year as a very small puppy, saw his first regular season action as intern to the beloved Butler Blue 2. Young "Tripp", who already has grown a bit larger than "the boss," was invited to join his mentor in the pre-game ritual of receiving a pat on the head from each member of the starting lineup. However, like many other freshmen, we don't know what to expect when Blue 3 takes the floor. While Blue 2 stayed poised and under control like a true veteran, Blue 3 thrashed about wildly and nearly took a bite out of the hand of senior guard Chase Stigall. Such is life as a Butler fan - I can't even relax during the pre-game ceremonies!
When the game action began, Clarke wasted no time making a dent in the scorebook. He scored Butler's first twelve points, staking the home team to a near-immediate double-digit lead. After Clarke went to the bench with his second foul just six minutes into the game, Dunham came in and picked up the scoring slack. There was also an #OMGDUNX
moment, courtesy of sophomores Roosevelt Jones and Kameron Woods. At the half, Butler held a comfortable 37-23 lead, which really seemed to come a little too easily.
As could almost be expected, Elon made a run early in the second half, with a balanced offensive attack and a solid defensive effort against a suddenly sluggish Butler offense. The Phoenix cut the lead to just four points, and so Butler needed a response to maintain their lead. Clarke struck first, with a three-pointer to stretch the margin back to seven. Then, after an Elon miss by Isenbarger, Dunham responded with a long-range shot of his own to restore the double-digit lead. When Elon scored on its next possession, Clarke followed with another superhoop, and Butler was never really threatened again.
For Isenbarger, his return home was a difficult one. Hounded throughout the game by Jones, Elon's star finished with just four points. However, his dream did not die here, as there are many more chances for him and his team to shine this season. For Butler, this was a nice win to open the season, but with upcoming trips to Xavier and to the Maui Invitational, they'll be under pressure to keep working and proving themselves.
Personally, it felt very good to be able to return to Hinkle Fieldhouse after a lengthy offseason. Over the past seven years, I've experienced many joys and also a number of disappointments in following the team that plays in the old building. Yet, despite the disappointments and the pain, it's the chance for a new opportunity that pulls us back in each November to begin the cycle anew. The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die. at BUTLER 74, ELON 59
ELON 0-1 (0-0) -- R. Beaumont 5-11 3-3 13; T. Samson 2-7 2-2 8; S. Koch 3-7 0-0 9; J. Isenbarger 2-9 0-1 4; A. Hamilton 4-8 3-5 13; L. Troutman 3-7 1-2 7; R. Winters 1-1 1-2 3; E. Edomwonyi 0-2 0-0 0; T. Sabato 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-53 10-15 59.
BUTLER 1-0 (0-0) -- R. Jones 3-7 0-0 6; K. Dunham 5-10 5-5 18; K. Woods 4-6 0-0 8; K. Marshall 7-11 0-2 14; R. Clarke 8-16 0-0 21; A. Barlow 1-1 0-0 2; E. Fromm 0-1 1-2 1; C. Stigall 1-4 1-2 4; A. Smith 0-1 0-0 0; J. Aldridge 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-1 0-0 0; A. Smeathers 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0; D. Morgan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-58 7-11 74.
Three-point goals: ELON 7-22 (R. Beaumont 0-3; J. Isenbarger 0-3; S. Koch 3-6; A. Hamilton 2-5; T. Samson 2-5), BUTL 9-24 (R. Clarke 5-10; C. Stigall 1-3; E. Fromm 0-1; E. Kampen 0-1; K. Woods 0-1; K. Dunham 3-8); Rebounds: ELON 19 (R. Beaumont 4), BUTL 34 (R. Jones 9); Assists: ELON 12 (R. Beaumont 2), BUTL 16 (R. Jones 6); Total Fouls -- ELON 12, BUTL 19; Fouled Out: ELON-None; BUTL-A. Smith.