Game #9-358: Rhode Island Rams at Butler BulldogsFebruary 2, 2013 4:00 pm
I was fortunate enough to have tickets to this week's big game, featuring the two brothers who are following the coaching legacy started by their father, one a veritable coaching lifer, the other a former star player who came into coaching after a high-profile playing career. Yes, I was able to witness the Hurley Bowl in person as Rhode Island paid a visit to Butler, and in so doing became one of the 10,000+ firstmen to know the result of this contest.
Dan Hurley came over from Wagner to take over quite a mess at Rhode Island. The Rams went 7-24 last season, and finished thirteenth in the Atlantic 10. Of the five top scorers from last year's team, one graduated, two were dismissed from the team (one in the middle of last season), and one (the former coach's son) transferred to follow his dad to Canisius.
Hurley brought along his top assistant from Wagner, big brother Bobby. The story of the Hurley brothers is an interesting one, as Danny struggled at Seton Hall to live under the broad shadow cast by Bobby's success at Duke, eventually giving up a chance at post-graduate play to go directly into coaching. Later, after an auto accident derailed Bobby's NBA career, and his foray into raising horses turned into a financial failure, it was Danny who brought Bobby back to the game.
The Hurleys aren't working with the fullest of decks with this squad, entering this game with a 6-13 overall record, and just 1-5 in A-10 play. The one conference win was a real eye-opener though, as the Rams pulled out an improbable overtime win at Saint Louis, the same Saint Louis team that just dominated Butler.
The Bulldogs entered the game embarrassed by their turnover-prone loss at Saint Louis, but mainly with very heavy hearts. Earlier that morning, Len Fromm, father of junior forward Erik, passed away after a battle with cancer. News like that really puts trivial things like angst over turnovers into quite a perspective. Nevertheless, the game would go on, and Butler would be challenged to adjust to Fromm's absence.
After a nationally televised game on ESPN against Gonzaga two weeks ago, and a nationally televised game on ESPN2 against Temple last week, things settled into normalcy a bit with a new, lower profile network broadcasting from Hinkle, one of a myriad of networks covering the A-10 this season.
This game began like several of Butler's recent home contests - ugly. Rhode Island used good ball movement and got a number of easy shots, converting on 11 of their first 20 attempts, and jumping out to a 25-16 lead, with seven different Rams scoring in the first twelve minutes. For Butler, only Khyle Marshall was a reliable offensive weapon, with ten points during that opening span. Turnover problems persisted for the Dawgs, with six miscues over that stretch of play. Most troublesome were some bad passes from Rotnei Clarke, who is developing a bad habit of throwing soft one-handed bounce passes off the dribble; these passes are not being completed at a high enough rate for my taste, and I'm yearning for a return to more fundamental passing from the senior star.
As they tend to do, Butler responded to the deficit with a run. Over a span of just over four minutes, they outscored Rhode Island 14-3 to take a two-point lead. However, they'd not score again for the rest of the first half . The Rams got a pair of free throws from Xavier Munford and a bucket from Andre Malone, and went into the locker room with a 32-30 advantage.
As they tend to do, Butler responded to the deficit with a run. They held Rhode Island without a field goal for over six minutes to open the second half, going on an 18-3 burst, with nine points from Roosevelt Jones and seven from Clarke. This seemingly put the game out of reach, but Rhode Island refused to go away quietly.
The Rams reverted to good ball movement and attacked the basket aggressively when given the chance, getting 24 free throw attempts in the second half. Rhode Island slowly fought their way back into the game, aided by some poorly timed Butler turnovers, and closed to within four with a minute to go. However, the Bulldogs never lost the lead, as they hit all but three of their twenty-seven free throws for the game. Most notably, Roosevelt Jones, frequently maligned for his shooting technique (including by me), went 8-for-8 from the line to help close out the victory.
For Rhode Island, this was their fourth straight loss, and sixth in their past seven games. However, none of their losses in conference play have been by more than eight points. With home games forthcoming against league contenders like Xavier, LaSalle, and UMass, I would expect to see the Rams coming away with a high-profile victory or two yet this year. As for the future, the Hurleys have a heritage of winning, so I don't expect to see the Rams lingering at the bottom of the conference standings for long. This is a program that is in good hands.
at BUTLER 75, RHODE ISLAND 68
RHODE ISLAND 6-14 (1-6) -- X. Munford 3-13 7-8 14; M. Powell 2-6 9-10 14; N. Malesevic 5-10 7-7 18; A. Malone 2-6 0-0 4; T. Buchanan 2-5 0-1 5; J. Hare 4-5 0-0 8; A. Bigby 0-1 0-0 0; M. Aaman 2-3 0-0 4; R. Brooks 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 20-50 24-28 68.
BUTLER 18-4 (5-2) -- R. Clarke 8-13 2-3 23; R. Jones 5-12 8-8 18; A. Smith 1-5 6-6 8; K. Dunham 2-4 0-0 4; K. Woods 3-6 1-2 7; K. Marshall 4-6 5-6 13; A. Barlow 0-1 2-2 2; C. Stigall 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-47 24-27 75.
Three-point goals: URI 4-11 (N. Malesevic 1-3; A. Malone 0-1; A. Bigby 0-1; T. Buchanan 1-2; M. Powell 1-2; X. Munford 1-2), BUTL 5-12 (R. Clarke 5-8; A. Smith 0-2; K. Dunham 0-2); Rebounds: URI 22 (N. Malesevic 6), BUTL 28 (R. Jones 6); Assists: URI 9 (M. Powell 3), BUTL 11 (R. Jones 4); Total Fouls -- URI 23, BUTL 21; Fouled Out: URI-J. Hare; BUTL-A. Smith.
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