Game #9-375: Saint Bonaventure Bonnies at Butler BulldogsFebruary 6, 2013 7:00 pm
After a string of three straight Saturday sellouts at Hinkle Fieldhouse (Gonzaga, Temple, Rhode Island), the Bulldogs hosted St. Bonaventure this past Wednesday night, and attendance at the old barn was at about two-thirds capacity as a result. The resultant relatively low energy level in the building gave me concern that an upset was looming, particularly since the Bonnies had won their past two Atlantic 10 road games (at Temple and Saint Joseph's). Given their reputation as a fairly prolific three-point shooting team, one that had averaged about twenty such attempts per game with a very respectable 38% percentage, I had a very bad feeling about this game as the opening tip approached. As the teams concluded their warm-ups, I determined that St. Bonaventure was missing a potential key cog to their offense, as junior guard Matthew Wright was missing his second consecutive game with a foot injury. Wright was a real spark in their two recent road wins, scoring 22 (4-4 from three-point range) at Temple and 18 (4-6 superhoops) at Saint Joe's. Interestingly, before that surge in long-range shooting productivity in Philadelphia, Wright had only been 10-44 (22.7%) from behind the arc this season. Sometimes, when a streaky shooter gets hot, a team's offense can suddenly become much more productive. That had been the case with Matthew Wright and St. Bonaventure in those two games, and his absence would be a factor in this contest.
In several of their conference games, Butler has started off slowly, and we saw more of the same here. The Bonnies' Chris Johnson knocked down a three-pointer from the deep right corner on the first possession of the game, and my anxiety immediately increased. Six minutes into the game, Butler had turned it over four times, gave up three barely contested layups on the defensive end, and had missed five shots in a row. This was shaping up to be a struggle, but then the tide started to shift, with key contributions from Butler's bench.
Kameron Woods came in and scored on consecutive possessions to cut the Bonnies' lead to 13-11. Then, after a missed three-pointer from Eric Mosley, Butler's Rotnei Clarke penetrated into the lane, had his shot blocked by Charlon Kloof, grabbed the loose ball, and found a wide-open Chase Stigall at the top of the key. Stigall converted, giving Butler the lead. After another Bonnies miss, Clarke again found Stigall, this time for a more contested superhoop, and Butler had a lead it would never relinquish.
I was thrilled to see these back-to-back buckets from Stigall. The most recent in the long line of shooting sensations to make their way from New Castle High School to Butler University over the past decade (following Darnell Archey, Bruce Horan, and Zach Hahn), Stigall has seen his minutes almost cut in half this season with the arrival of Clarke and Kellen Dunham. Nevertheless, he has delivered key three-point baskets in high-profile wins over North Carolina, Indiana, and Gonzaga, as well as some timely scoring in the win at Dayton after Clarke was knocked out of the game. So, as a senior, while his accuracy is not to the level we'd hoped to see (he entered this game at 27.5% from distance this season, and just under 30% for his career), he certainly has developed the ability to impact a game with clutch three-pointers. While this game might not end up ranking among his career highlights, those two shots definitely swung the game in his team's favor. As I've mentioned before, when a streaky shooter gets hot, a team's offense can suddenly become much more productive. Beginning with Stigall's shots, Butler closed the half by going 10-17 from the floor, 6-8 from three-point range, and built a 39-30 advantage at the break. The senior, seen here having some second-half success from the foul line, finished the evening with a season-high twelve points.
Halftime featured performances by the Butler Dance Team, and then by some talented young people from the Dance by Deborah studios in nearby Crawfordsville. One particular young man captured the attention of the crowd with his high energy moves.
While that was very impressive, I'm getting anxious about Butler's halftime entertainment. Only four home games remain, and still no appearance yet this season from Dr. Lee Walden, the three-point shooting specialist, who at age 66, hit 46 of 50 superhoops at a halftime exhibition in Hinkle three seasons ago. Hopefully, they can bring back the Doctor!
Butler began the second half with a strong stretch of play that is becoming as predictable as their game-opening lethargy. Starting with a wildly athletic move from Khyle Marshall, who threw down a one-handed alley-oop dunk off an errant pass from Roosevelt Jones, and capped by old-fashioned three-point plays from Dunham and Andrew Smith, the Bulldogs opened the half on a 17-5 run and cruised to a 77-58 victory. The vaunted St. Bonaventure three-point attack never really materialized after their opening possession, attempting only nine such shots for the entire game. Certainly Wright's unavailability was a factor, but Butler kept good defensive pressure on the perimeter throughout much of the game, thereby keeping the Bonnies from going on much of a run at any point.
There were two other items from this game worthy of note. Butler warmly welcomed back junior forward Erik Fromm, who returned to the active roster after missing the previous game due to the passing of his father. Fromm received one standing ovation upon entering the game, then received another after knocking a three-pointer in the second half.
St. Bonaventure got a strong performance from senior forward Demitrius Conger, who was the only Bonnie to hit double figures, and who warrants at least an honorable mention in this season's ongoing Sneaker Watch by successfully working the color orange into his Nikes.
at BUTLER 77, SAINT BONAVENTURE 58
SAINT BONAVENTURE 10-11 (3-5) -- D. Conger 5-6 7-8 18; E. Mosley 2-9 0-0 5; M. Simmons 2-5 5-8 9; C. Kloof 1-2 2-4 5; C. Johnson 3-9 2-2 9; J. Gathers 1-2 2-3 4; M. Davenport 2-7 0-0 4; Y. Ndoye 1-4 0-0 2; J. Toupane 1-2 0-0 2; D. Wright 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-47 18-25 58.
BUTLER 19-4 (6-2) -- R. Clarke 6-12 2-2 17; A. Smith 3-3 6-9 13; A. Barlow 1-2 0-0 3; C. Stigall 3-5 3-4 12; K. Marshall 5-5 2-3 12; K. Woods 2-4 0-0 4; K. Dunham 3-6 1-1 9; R. Jones 2-7 0-1 4; E. Fromm 1-4 0-0 3; J. Aldridge 0-2 0-0 0; D. Morgan 0-2 0-0 0; A. Smeathers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-52 14-20 77.
Three-point goals: BONA 4-9 (D. Conger 1-1; E. Mosley 1-4; C. Kloof 1-1; C. Johnson 1-1; J. Toupane 0-1; D. Wright 0-1), BUTL 11-26 (R. Clarke 3-8; C. Stigall 3-5; A. Smith 1-1; E. Fromm 1-3; A. Barlow 1-2; J. Aldridge 0-2; K. Dunham 2-4; D. Morgan 0-1); Rebounds: BONA 19 (M. Simmons 4), BUTL 31 (A. Smith 7); Assists: BONA 8 (D. Conger 2), BUTL 14 (R. Clarke 5); Total Fouls -- BONA 18, BUTL 17; Fouled Out: BONA-None; BUTL-None.