Rotnei Clarke

Late Rotnei Clarke push comes up short, No. 11 Butler upset by Charlotte

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Butler superhero transfer Rotnei Clarke showed up a little too late to save the Bulldogs Wednesday night.

Despite scoring 15 points in the final 3:24 of regulation, the Bulldogs couldn’t stop a physical interior-minded Charlotte team and fell, 71-67, at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.

This isn’t a Butler team we’re used to seeing, though. The Bulldogs were without center Andrew Smith, a rock in the paint that had been averaging 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Whereas the Bulldogs were able to use Smith to try to negate a disadvantage inside previously, his absence made for a long night of Butler defense.

Charlotte wanted to work the ball to the rim the entire night and was never really stopped, on its way to 52 percent shooting on the night.

But even considering that, Butler was within one possession late and had a chance to tie the game, trailing by only two when coach Brad Stevens called a timeout to draw up a play with three seconds to play. A pass toward the rim was intercepted and that was the game.

Luckily for Brad Stevens’ team, Smith is only slated to miss one more game and that comes against Fordham, a team that is 2-7 in conference play and 6-18 overall.

Another positive takeaway is this: How long can one reasonably keep Rotnei Clarke in a slump? The answer is usually “not long.” He found his groove in the final three minutes and came about as close as anyone could imagine to single-handedly bringing a team back from a double-digit deficit.

Clarke has only been held without a double-digit scoring night three times this season when he has been able to play full minutes and Butler is still 2-1 in those games.

This loss will sting in the short term, but Butler should be back on track when Smith returns.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.