Butler got its third shot at Saint Louis this season in the A-10 semifinal. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the Billikens were determined to be their "local rival," so that they were the one team that Butler played twice in conference play. Gee, thanks a lot! Saint Louis blasted Butler at their place, and then beat them again in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Would the third time be the charm here in the Barclays Center?
Game #9-500: Butler Bulldogs vs. Saint Louis BillikensMarch 16, 2013 1:30 pm
The Bulldogs appeared ready for the challenge in the early moments of the game. Khyle Marshall scored five early points in the low post, and then Rotnei Clarke hit back-to-back three-pointers. At the first media timeout, Butler had a quick lead of 11-6, and the small Butler contingent in attendance was fired up!
Coming out of the timeout, Andrew Smith stepped to the foul line and missed both. This was not a good sign, as I really thought Butler would need to take full advantage of its opportunities to beat the Billikens - missing early free throws would not get the job done. Sure enough, Saint Louis proceeded to score five straight points to tie it up.
But Butler would be resilient, and an Andrew Smith three-pointer stretched the Bulldog lead to six points. After a steal by Kameron Woods, Smith lined up again for a superhoop attempt. This one was off the mark right from his hands, and Smith rushed to the basket to follow his shot. Unfortunately, Dwayne Evans got there first, and Smith picked up his second foul after running directly into Evans. That turned out not to be a good decision, and Smith spent the last seven minutes of the half on the bench. Soon thereafter, the Dawgs opened up a 24-17 lead on a jumper from Kameron Woods, which almost immediately was followed by the second foul on Butler's Roosevelt Jones. The entire flow of the game changed without these two players. Saint Louis, doing what Saint Louis does, clamped down on the Butler offense, and closed out the last five minutes of the half on a 10-1 run, finishing with a Rob Loe layup at the buzzer. In retrospect, I pondered a classic "what if" scenario about these fouls - neither were particularly necessary, so what might have happened had Smith and Jones not committed those fouls? But we can't live in the hypothetical world - Butler outplayed Saint Louis for a considerable portion of the first half, but didn't execute well in the final five minutes and found itself in a two-point hole. Again, that dry spell would likely not be good enough to get the job done.
With Smith and Jones back for the second half, would Butler be able to regain control? They did so, to an extent. Jones, scoreless in the first half, drove right to the basket for an easy layup to open the half. For the next seven minutes, the two teams went back and forth with competitive and high-quality action. Jones scored six straight points for Butler to close that seven-minute stretch, tying the game at 39. Cody Ellis broke the tie, with Saint Louis' seventh three-pointer of the game. Kellen Dunham followed with two free throws. After an offensive foul on SLU's Jordair Jett, we went to the under 12:00 media timeout with Butler in possession of the ball trailing by just a point.
When play resumed, Dunham lost control of the ball. Saint Louis guard Mike McCall Jr. then found a clear path to the basket, but got bumped by Butler's Jackson Aldridge. McCall's shot attempt appeared to be falling well short of the rim, and was swatted away by Marshall. As McCall headed to the line to shoot his two free throws, the officials huddled up, and then signaled the basket good, calling goaltending on Marshall. I didn't have the best angle from my perch up high in the arena, but that didn't seem like a very good call to me. Regardless, McCall hit the free toss, giving SLU a 45-41 lead.
At this point, Saint Louis' defense took over on one end of the court, and Dwayne Evans took over on the other. Evans scored fourteen points during a 15-6 SLU run, getting to the basket for layups, pulling up with short jumpers, and getting to the foul line. This was a seven-plus minute stretch of complete dominance. While their whole team contributed on the defensive end (forcing twenty turnovers in total for the contest), they generally deferred to Evans on every offensive possession until the result was decided. When you have a star player in the post-season, you jump on his back and let him carry you to victory. That's what Saint Louis did here, and that's what I think they'll be able to do in the big tournament. With one more Billiken game to cover in Brooklyn, I've just about run out of ways to praise Dwayne Evans. He's been the best player on the floor in this tournament; with apologies to Chaz Williams, I don't think it's been all that close.
Butler returned home to get some rest and await its next assignment. I believe their resume will qualify them for the NCAA tournament, so while I was hoping to see them do well here, I'm less than heartbroken at this defeat. Four games in four days might not be the best way to get prepared for the main event - probably better to get some extra rest and some practice time. Of course, that's not really an issue any longer. The better team won this game, as it did the two prior ones. All Butler can do is to tip its hat to Saint Louis, and wish the Billikens good fortune going forward. Saint Louis appears to be set to do some damage over the next couple of weeks, just as they did in this game, and just as they've done over the course of the entire season.
SAINT LOUIS 67, BUTLER 56
BUTLER 26-8 (11-5) -- R. Clarke 7-15 0-0 16; K. Dunham 0-6 3-4 3; R. Jones 4-9 0-0 8; A. Smith 3-8 0-2 8; K. Woods 2-4 3-4 7; K. Marshall 3-5 1-1 7; A. Barlow 0-2 0-0 0; E. Fromm 0-0 0-0 0; J. Aldridge 0-0 0-0 0; C. Stigall 0-1 2-2 2; A. Smeathers 2-3 0-0 5; D. Morgan 0-1 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-54 9-13 56.
SAINT LOUIS 26-6 (13-3) -- D. Evans 7-10 9-11 24; M. McCall Jr. 3-6 2-3 9; C. Ellis 4-8 1-2 13; R. Loe 1-8 1-4 3; J. Jett 0-2 2-2 2; C. Remekun 0-1 1-2 1; J. Barnett 1-1 1-3 3; G. Glaze 1-1 0-0 2; S. Duff 0-0 1-2 1; J. LePak 0-0 0-0 0; J. Manning 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-37 18-29 58.
Three-point goals: BUTL 5-18 (R. Clarke 2-6; C. Stigall 0-1; A. Smith 2-4; A. Smeathers 1-2; A. Barlow 0-2; K. Dunham 0-3), SLU 6-15 (K. Mitchell 1-3; C. Ellis 4-8; D. Evans 1-1; R. Loe 0-4; M. McCall 1-2); Rebounds: BUTL 38 (R. Jones 8), SLU 27 (D. Evans 11); Assists: BUTL 9 (A. Smith 2), SLU 4 (K. Mitchell 5); Total Fouls -- BUTL 22, SLU 11; Fouled Out: BUTL-R. Jones; SLU-None.