It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight
Game #9-412: Duquesne Dukes at Butler BulldogsFebruary 19, 2013 7:00 pm
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he's watchin' us all with the eye of the tiger
At the second media timeout of Butler's home game against Duquesne, with the Bulldogs leading 13-9, the Butler Band played the old Survivor classic from Rocky III. While I don't recall that song being part of the band's regular rotation, I do remember hearing it played occasionally at Hinkle Fieldhouse. This time though, the song really resonated with me. For the past several games, something seems to be missing when I watch Butler play. I don't know how to define what it is that's missing, but as cliche as it has become, maybe they simply have been missing the eye of the tiger.
After what I thought was a fairly rough stretch to open its first season of A-10 play (at Saint Joseph's, at Dayton, Richmond, at LaSalle, Temple, at Saint Louis - with a home game against Gonzaga added in as an extra challenge), I looked at the bulk of Butler's February schedule, and thought that they'd need to win all six of those games if they wanted to be a serious contender for the A-10 regular season championship. That particular portion of the schedule featured Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, at George Washington, Charlotte, at Fordham, and Duquesne. Heading into the last game of that sequence, Butler had already dropped a home game to Charlotte, and looked less than impressive in their two road wins. There were valid excuses that could be made to explain some of the relatively subpar performances, but the team simply has not played very well during much of this month.
There's nothing more invigorating in sports than watching a team rise up to the challenge of their rival, getting the maximum out of their abilities and achieving successes that were thought to be unattainable. But at some point you have to wonder about the level from which they are rising up to such challenges. When the challenge of the rival isn't as great (or at least isn't perceived to be as great), what kind of team are they then? Which level of play more accurately reflects how good that team is, what they might be able to accomplish, and what they will likely fail to achieve? These are the sorts of questions I asked myself as the last of these "should win, must win" games played out in front of me. This is supposed to be fun, right?
After the final drumbeats of Eye of the Tiger were played, Butler opened the lead a bit further. When Kellen Dunham made jump shots on three straight possessions, two of which came from beyond the arc, the Bulldogs had a 28-17 lead, and the margin would never again fall into single digits.
The beginning of the second half was keyed by Khyle Marshall, who scored nine of the team's first eleven points of the half, helping expand the lead to 47-27, and the size of the lead hovered around that twenty-point mark throughout the rest of the contest. If Butler is going to be successful from this point forward, it needs consistent offensive production from Dunham and Marshall. As I have heard it described in other contexts, those two must hunt shots. They need to be aggressive and take advantage of opportunities created when the opposing defense focuses their attention on Rotnei Clarke, Andrew Smith, and Roosevelt Jones.
When you get the last place team in your league to visit your gym, you have to win, and you're best served by not allowing there to be much drama associated with that win. That was the case on this night - this sort of game doesn't lead to great storytelling in recapping it, but I appreciated seeing that nevertheless.
From here, the thrill of the fight increases for Butler. League leader Saint Louis visits this Friday, and road trips to VCU and UMass follow, before the regular season ends with a visit from Xavier. Whether they are ready or not, it's time to rise up to the challenge of their rivals. Two weeks from now, for better or worse, I believe we'll have a much better idea about what this team might be able to accomplish when the postseason tournaments begin. Will they have any real chance to be the last known survivor?
As he prepared for the epic showdown with the seemingly invincible Clubber Lang, Rocky formed somewhat of an unthinkable alliance with former rival Apollo Creed. To help his new friend get back to the proper frame of mind, Creed took Rocky to a local gym - a small, simple, almost primitive place, filled with fighters who were desperately looking for an opportunity to prove themselves - the same opportunity that Rocky himself was improbably given by Creed just two movies earlier. The scene presented a dramatic contrast between the two champions, each dressed in expensive suits, and the local warriors, clad only in boxing trunks in the dark and dungy gym, none of whom the least bit impressed by the unlikely visit from the great champions.
" You see that look in their eyes, Rock? When we fought, Rock, I trained hard, but I didn't have that look in my eyes. You had it, you won. You gotta get that look back, Rock. Eye of the tiger, man. Eye of the tiger. Come on!"
at BUTLER 68, DUQUESNE 49
DUQUESNE 8-18 (1-11) -- D. Colter 4-11 0-0 11; J. Jones 4-7 0-0 9; K. Pantophlet 3-7 0-0 7; J. Jones 2-7 5-6 9; S. Johnson 3-7 1-2 7; A. Marhold 1-5 0-0 2; Q. Winters 1-3 0-0 2; M. Binney 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-48 6-8 47.
BUTLER 22-5 (9-3) -- R. Clarke 5-11 2-2 16; R. Jones 3-7 0-0 6; A. Smith 1-9 5-6 8; A. Barlow 2-5 0-0 6; K. Marshall 6-9 2-4 14; K. Woods 3-5 0-0 6; K. Dunham 4-8 0-0 11; C. Stigall 0-0 0-0 0; E. Fromm 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 0-1 0-0 0; A. Smeathers 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 24-55 10-14 68.
Three-point goals: DUQ 5-21 (S. Johnson 0-2; J. Jones 1-4; K. Pantophlet 1-4; D. Colter 3-6; J. Jones 0-2; Q. Winters 0-2; M. Binney 0-1), BUTL 10-21 (R. Clarke 4-8; A. Smith 1-3; A. Barlow 2-5; K. Dunham 3-5); Rebounds: DUQ 22 (J. Jones 5), BUTL 34 (A. Smith 10); Assists: DUQ 7 (S. Johnson 3), BUTL 15 (R. Jones 5); Total Fouls -- DUQ 14, BUTL 9; Fouled Out: DUQ-None; BUTL-None.