Rotnei Clarke scored 15 of his 28 points in the second half to lead No. 14 Butler to a 72-66 win at St. Joseph’s in their first league game as a member of the Atlantic 10.
Clarke hit six threes while chipping in with six boards and four assists. Center Andrew Smith added 24 points and 10 boards, six on the offensive end, as the Bulldogs managed to pull-away late in the second half in one of the more entertaining games that we are going to see this season.
Both teams shot the ball well from three. Both teams got up and down the floor. Both teams struggled with the concept of defense. They traded runs. The difference? Butler was able to execute down the stretch, while St. Joe’s lost yet another close game.
That was something St. Joe’s struggled with mightily last season, and an issue they haven’t exactly fixed early on this season. Call it what you want — poor execution, bad late-game coaching, questionable decision-making — but more than anything, it’s a consistent problem that needs to be addressed.
The point that needs to be taken out of this game, however, is that Butler is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the A-10.
What better way to introduce yourself to the conference than to go into the gym of the team picked to win the conference and leave with a victory?
Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.
The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.
It wasn’t pretty.
And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.
Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.
The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.
But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.
Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: