Game #9-355: Temple Owls at Butler BulldogsJanuary 26, 2013 6:00 pm
January's schedule provided Butler with an unusual opportunity to become almost a temporarily adopted member of the famed Philadelphia Big 5. After a win over Penn at Hinkle on the 2nd
, a road win over Saint Joseph's on the 9th, and a road loss at LaSalle on the 23rd that broke the Bulldogs' 13-game winning streak, this home game against Temple allowed Butler the chance to compete against 4 of the Big 5 within a 24-day span. I suppose a post-season tournament matchup against Villanova will be their destiny. With these contests against Philly's finest, I've enjoyed the opportunity to get more acquainted with these programs and their rich histories. Regardless of how conference affiliations play out in the future, there will almost certainly not be a chance for Butler to play so many of these teams in such a short timeframe. When I see the Temple uniform, the first person to come to mind is their longtime coach John Chaney. As this game approached, I was shocked to learn that his last season at Temple had been seven years ago. Under Chaney, the Owls were well known for an aggressive match-up zone defense and general on-court toughness. As I heard him describe it once, he wanted his teams to play T-U-F-F, not tough; while I never quite understood that distinction, I was fairly certain that they were successful in doing so far more often than not.
After Chaney left the program in 2006, the Owls have been guided quite capably by Fran Dunphy, a former star player and assistant at LaSalle, and then a legendary coach at Penn, where he guided the Quakers to ten Ivy League championships in seventeen seasons. After a rocky first season at Temple, Dunphy has led the Owls to five consecutive seasons in which they've been in the top two of the Atlantic 10. Along with Xavier, Temple has dominated the conference in these recent seasons. However, Dunphy has not been able to carry that regular season success over to the NCAA tournament, managing just a single win over Penn State over the past half decade in the big dance.
As with so many other schools, football appears to be taking priority for Temple, forcing their move to what's to be left of the Big East. Therefore, this game may well be the only time that these two teams will meet. With Temple's past dominance, with their recent wins over Syracuse and Saint Louis, and their recent narrow loss at Kansas, this game certainly warranted a highlight on Butler's schedule.
This game also marked the return of Butler's Rotnei Clarke, coming back from a three-plus game absence after being slammed into the basket support at Dayton and suffering a severe neck sprain. Butler fans anxiously followed news of Clarke's progress during his absence, from him leaving the hospital, to later getting clearance to ride an exercise bike, to then being given the okay to shoot, to eventually returning to practice. Coming off the one-point loss at LaSalle, all of the home crowd were eager to see Rotnei back on the court.
From the opening tip, this one appeared to be a scoring duel between Clarke and Temple's Khalif Wyatt, and Wyatt made the first significant impact. He knocked down a three-pointer from deep on the right wing, also drawing a foul on Butler's Alex Barlow. After missing the free throw, Scootie Randall grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to T.J. DiLeo, who then penetrated into the lane and found an open Wyatt for another three-pointer. His six points in a span of seven seconds on that single possession, sparked Temple to an early 8-2 lead, and the sellout crowd at Hinkle let out a collective groan.
Clarke responded soon thereafter, and did so in a rather unconventional way. After the Owls' defensive pest DiLeo left the game with an ankle sprain, Will Cummings was assigned to guard Clarke. On consecutive possessions, Clarke drew fouls on Cummings while shooting from three-point range, and proceeded to convert five of the six resulting free tosses.
Temple began to pull away at that point, with Wyatt finding little resistance from solid Butler defenders like Barlow and Chase Stigall. He drove right past Stigall for an easy layup on one possession, and knocked down a contested three-pointer over Barlow on another, the latter of which gave the Owls a 21-14 lead.
Butler then responded with back-to-back superhoops from freshman Kellen Dunham. By the time Dunham converted his third trifecta seven minutes later, the home team had built an eight-point lead and seemed in control of the contest. However, Temple closed the half with a putback by Anthony Lee and a wide-open three-pointer from the deep right corner by Jake O'Brien (off an assist by Wyatt), leaving Butler with an uncomfortably narrow 37-34 lead at intermission. In their individual duel, Wyatt had 16 points to Clarke's 13.
Butler's Khyle Marshall exploded out of the gate to begin the second half. Before the first media timeout of the half at the 15:54 mark, Marshall made a free throw, threw down a pair of dunks, hit a perimeter jump shot, and grabbed three rebounds, all of which served to stretch the Butler lead back to ten points. The Dawgs would eventually build the lead up to thirteen, with Wyatt largely being held in check by Butler's defensive stopper Roosevelt Jones, who had been kept off of Wyatt for most of the first half to prevent foul trouble.
In the middle of the second half, it was Wyatt's supporting cast who responded. Senior forwards Scootie Randall and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson combined on a two-man 13-2 run, drawing the Owls into a 56-56 tie heading into the under 8:00 media timeout.
From this point, Clarke dominated the game, and again did so in a rather unconventional way. Beginning with a drive into the lane and a pass to Marshall for an open dunk, continuing with back-to-back penetrate-and-pitch passes to Dunham for three-pointers, and concluding with a pretty dish to the cutting Jones for a lay-up, Clarke quickly led his team back to a double-digit lead, putting forth the most impressive three-minute stretch of play I'd seen from him all season, and he did so without attempting a single shot.
Temple would close to within six in the final minute of play, but Clarke hit six straight free throws to close out the game. While Butler had some periods of play where they exhibited some relative lulls, this was one of the more impressive complete team performances of the season.
With this win in the books, the post-game media attention focused on the beloved Butler Blue 2, who earlier in the week announced that he'd be retiring after this season. More reporting on that issue will surely follow, but continued Butler performances like the one on this day will surely send Blue 2 off on a high note.
at BUTLER 83, TEMPLE 71
TEMPLE 13-6 (2-3) -- S. Randall 5-10 0-0 13; K. Wyatt 7-15 4-5 22; A. Lee 5-9 2-3 12; R. Hollis-Jefferson 4-8 3-4 11; D. Pepper 1-7 0-0 3; J. O'Brien 1-5 0-0 3; Q. DeCosey 1-3 4-4 6; W. Cummings 0-1 1-2 1; T. DiLeo 0-1 0-0 0; D. Dingle 0-0 0-0 0; J. McDonnell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-59 14-18 71.
BUTLER 17-3 (4-1) -- R. Clarke 4-14 13-14 24; R. Jones 3-5 3-5 9; A. Smith 2-4 3-4 7; K. Dunham 6-10 0-0 17; K. Marshall 9-11 1-2 19; A. Barlow 0-2 0-0 0; K. Woods 2-2 3-4 7; E. Fromm 0-2 0-0 0; C. Stigall 0-0 0-0 0; J. Aldridge 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0; D. Morgan 0-0 0-0 0; A. Smeathers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-50 23-29 83.
Three-point goals: TU 9-18 (J. O'Brien 1-3; S. Randall 3-5; K. Wyatt 4-6; D. Pepper 1-3; Q. DeCosey 0-1), BUTL 8-20 (R. Clarke 3-10; A. Smith 0-1; E. Fromm 0-1; A. Barlow 0-2; K. Dunham 5-6); Rebounds: TU 21 (A. Lee 7), BUTL 33 (A. Smith 5); Assists: TU 14 (K. Wyatt 6), BUTL 16 (R. Clarke 9); Total Fouls -- TU 19, BUTL 18; Fouled Out: TU-None; BUTL-None.