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.