The matchup between No. 9 Butler and Saint Louis was expected to be a tough affair, with both teams being good defensive teams.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they picked this night to have their worst game of the season in regards to taking care of the basketball. Against the Billikens’ stingy defense Butler turned the ball over a season-high 23 times, with Saint Louis converting those miscues into 26 points in their 75-58 win at Chaifetz Arena.
Before Thursday’s defeat Butler’s high for turnovers in a game was 18, a number reached in wins over North Carolina and then-No. 1 Indiana, but neither of those teams were as tough on the Bulldogs defensively as the Billikens were.
Offensively Jim Crews’ team did a better job of finding quality looks as the game went on, shooting 50% from the field on the night and 55.2% in the second half (SLU made 58.5% of their two-point shots). Reserve guard Jordair Jett scored 19 points to lead the way for Saint Louis, whose reserves scored 31 points, with Dwayne Evans and Rob Loe adding 15 and 12 points apiece.
Rotnei Clarke (17 points) and Andrew Smith (12 points, six rebounds) led the way offensively for Butler but Saint Louis made things difficult on the Bulldogs’ top two scorers all night. Clarke and Smith combined to shoot 10-of-25 from the field, with Clarke also committing six turnovers.
While this was a stunning performance in regards to Butler, this is the second time this season the Billikens have overwhelmed a ranked opponent at home with their defense. The first came in SLU’s 60-46 win over New Mexico on New Year’s Eve, with the Lobos turning the ball over 21 times.
Even with Kwamain Mitchell scoring just four points Saint Louis was in total control for much of the game on Thursday night, thanks in large part to their work on the defensive end of the floor.
And in a tight Atlantic 10 race that now has seven teams with two conference losses, Saint Louis will need to defend at this level consistently (this would explain their overtime loss to Rhode Island) in order to have a shot at a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament.