The #18 Butler Bulldogs had their offense on a hot streak in the second half and ran away from the host Vanderbilt Commodores, leaving Nashville, Tennessee with a 68-49 victory.
Leave it up to a guard like Rotnei Clarke and he’ll put the game on his shoulders and without a doubt come through, smoking the nets from three-point range, leaving the opponent beside themselves.
Clarke got quite comfortable the last time he set foot in Memorial Gym. Before transferring to Butler, he played at Arkansas. Two years ago, Rotnei racked up 36 points for the Razorbacks in an upset of Vanderbilt.
The first half became a chess match that left the Bulldogs and Commodores wondering which would make the best moves toward running away. Three ties and three times the lead changed in the first half before Butler found a way to run away from Vanderbilt.
Andrew Smith and Rotnei Clarke each scored six and Khyle Marshall added five to pace the Bulldog scoring in the opening half. Neither team could get more than a three point lead in the first half and that’s exactly what Butler’s lead was at 25-22.
Head Coach Brad Stevens made some adjustments offensively and defensively, they clamped down in the second half. Butler came out of the gates in the first 4:33 of the second half shooting lights out and found themselves on a 14-3 run in that time. That turned into a 19-10 start in the first seven minutes of half number two to go up 44-32. With consecutive three-pointers by Clarke and Kellen Dunham, respectively, Butler jumped out to its biggest lead of the game thus far, 52-34.
The second half pretty much became the Clarke and Dunham show. Those two alone combined to almost outscore Vanderbilt as a duo. Clarke had 16 and Dunham 10 in the second 20 minutes to the Commodores’ 27.
Butler scorched the nets in the second half from outside-the-arc, going 6-for-8 and 13-of-20 for the game, for an astounding 65% from three.
It was a night of domination across the board for the Bulldogs. They outrebounded Vanderbilt 42-27. Their defense stepped up to the challenge of playing a road game at an SEC school and succeeded better than expected.
A balanced effort by all, to say the least. Clarke and Dunham led the way with 22 and 12 respectively, but had others join them the other stats that made a difference in getting their seventh straight win. Khyle Marshall had nine points and 11 boards, while Kameron Woods grabbed 9. Andrew Smith chipped in 8 points, while Alex Barlow had a career-high six points while grabbing four rebounds and three assists.
Vanderbilt (5-6) was only able to get one player into double-figure scoring. Kyle Fuller led the Commodores with 10 points, while Kedren Johnson added nine and Shelby Moats 8.
Butler (10-2) comes home to Hinkle Fieldhouse to host two games before starting Atlantic 10 conference play next week. Wednesday night, January 2nd, they’ll welcome the Pennsylvania Quakers (2-9) of the Ivy League for a 7 p.m. tipoff. The second of this short two-game home stand will bring the New Orleans Privateers (3-8) to Indianapolis for a 2 p.m. start on Saturday, January 5.