A strong second half performance by junior standout Rotnei Clarke returned No. 9 Butler to the win column with a 75-68 victory over Rhode Island on Saturday.
Clarke’s 23 points led all scorers, as the Bulldogs (18-4, 5-2 Atlantic 10 Conference) bounced back from a shocking 75-58 loss to Saint Louis on Jan. 31. Sophomore forward Roosevelt Jones added 18 points, including 13 in the second half, to help pace Butler.
Rhode Island (6-14, 1-6 A-10) led 32-30 at halftime, providing another scare for the nationally-ranked Bulldogs. But Clarke added 12 points in a 15-3 second half run for Butler, who led by as many as 13 late in the game. The Bulldogs stifled the Rams in the second half, holding them to 40 percent shooting from the field.
Rhode Island was led by senior forward Nikola Malesevic, who scored 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Junior guard Xavier Munford, the Rams’ leading scorer with 17.3 points per game, scored 14 points despite shooting just 23.1 percent from the floor.
Rhode Island has lost its last three games by a total of 10 points and is scheduled to play Massachusetts on Wednesday.
SLU continues torrid stretch
Saint Louis won its fourth straight game Saturday, using a fast start defensively to defeat Dayton 81-52 at home.
The Billikens (16-5, 5-2 A-10) held the visiting Flyers without a score for 12 straight first half possessions, jumping out to a 39-23 halftime lead. Junior forward Rob Loe scored 17 points, his second-highest point total this season. Fellow junior Dwayne Evans scored 15 points, helping to lead Saint Louis to its largest margin of victory this season.
Dayton (12-9, 2-5 A-10) struggled to deal with the Billikens’ defensive pressure, shooting 42.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from beyond the arc, while turning the ball over 20 times. Senior forward Josh Benson added 12 points off the bench, while junior guard Vee Sanford was the only other double-digit scorer with 10 points.
Four Saint Louis players reached double digits, while the team combined to shoot a blistering 50.9 percent overall. The Billikens’ first half run was sparked by junior guard Jordair Jett, who scored five straight points and assisted on another basket to help create a 12-point lead.
Saint Louis, winners of 13 of their last 15 games, look to continue its impressive stretch Wednesday against Fordham.
St. Joe’s edges Temple in thriller
With just five minutes, 39 seconds left to play, Saint Joseph’s faced a nine-point deficit against its crosstown rival, Temple.
But thanks to a double-double performance by junior forward Ronald Roberts Jr. and two timely 3-pointers from leading scorer Carl Jones, the Hawks (13-7, 4-3 A-10) went on an 18-5 run for the rest of regulation to beat the Owls, 70-69.
For long stretches of the game, the storyline centered on Temple (14-7, 3-4 A-10) guard Khalif Wyatt, who scored a career-high 34 points. But the Owls struggled to find offense outside of Wyatt in the second half, faltering down the stretch.
SJU was led by the performance of Roberts, who scored 18 points and added 12 rebounds, but it was junior center C.J Aiken who put the Hawks ahead for good, hitting a layup with 25 seconds left in the second half to give Saint Joseph’s a 68-66 lead. Junior forward Halil Kanacevic assisted on the play, adding to an impressive stat line of 12 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Wyatt, who made 11 of 24 shots on the day for the Owls, had a chance to win it with time running out, but missed his final attempt.
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at email@example.com.