Thursday, January 17, 2013
How Butler is coping without Clarke
By Luke Lapinski
Few players are doing more for their team than Rotnei Clarke this season. The transfer from Arkansas has been just what Butler needed, hitting key shots in big situations, delivering from long range and taking advantage of his opportunities from the free throw line. He's not a one-man show, but he's been the difference maker for the Bulldogs as they've climbed to No. 13 in the Top 25.
So how will they fare with him sidelined? Clarke was expected to miss at least two games after a scary play that saw him fall head-first into the backboard support after getting fouled by a Dayton player last weekend. The first of those two games came last night. And, while Butler struggled to hit shots (making just 37.5 percent of its field goals), it still found a way to knock off Richmond by 15. The keys? Rebounding and defense. The Bulldogs pounded the glass, hauling down 47 boards to the Spiders' 18. In fact, they had more offensive rebounds (17) than Richmond had defensive (13). And they allowed just 47 points -- the second-lowest total they've given up all year.
Granted, that won't be a typical stat line for Brad Stevens' group to rely on. The Spiders weren't particularly good on the glass coming into the game, and Butler exploited that weakness. Up next, however, is a much tougher task against No. 8 Gonzaga on Saturday. Clarke likely won't play in that one either, but his return could come shortly thereafter. If they can stun the 'Zags, it would be a huge win for Stevens' squad. If not, it's certainly a forgivable loss in the grand scheme of things -- and one they should be able to bounce back from quickly.