New conference, same Butler.
Rotnei Clarke — a former Verdigris High School All-State guard — scored 28 points and Andrew Smith had 24 points and 10 rebounds to lead the No. 14 Bulldogs to a 72-66 win over Saint Joseph's on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs (13-2, 1-0 Atlantic 10) are no longer bullying their way over teams in the Horizon League. Butler made its A-10 debut one to remember, holding Saint Joseph's without a field goal for a 9-minute stretch in the second half to rally for the win.
Butler, losers of consecutive NCAA championship games in 2010 and 2011, proved it's going to be a threat to win another conference title, no matter the name of the league.
"New kids on the block," coach Brad Stevens said. "It probably doesn't help that we're ranked, whatever that means. But it does add to the environment you play in."
Clarke responded to a loud and upset-minded crowd on Hawk Hill with six 3-pointers to help the Bulldogs win their 10th straight game. Clarke's 3 were about automatic. So were the boos that erupted each time he touched the ball.
Butler was hardly basketball's darling in Philadelphia - just the way Clarke liked it.
"That's what you work for, being able to go on the road and play in tough venues with hostile crowds and being able to hit shots that quiet crowds," he said. "I think that's one of the fun things about playing on the road."
Chris Wilson scored 15 points, and Ronald Roberts Jr. had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Hawks (8-5, 0-1).
Langston Galloway airballed a 3-pointer, then missed a second attempt on the same possession in the final minute to end Saint Joseph's chances. Halil Kanacevic also missed a pair of 3-point attempts with the Hawks down four.
"I would love to have them back," Galloway said. "I was wide open, but came up short."
Clarke, who once scored 51 points in a game while at Arkansas, punished Saint Joseph's from beyond the arc for 39 minutes. He made his six 3s on 10 attempts. When the Bulldogs were off the mark, no worries. Smith was there to grab the big boards and score the inside buckets (8 of 15 from the floor).
Clarke's 3 for a 57-56 lead gave the Bulldogs never relinquished. Each time the Hawks inched closer, Clarke just pushed them back - from deep. Galloway's 3 made it a two-point game. But Clarke, one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference, came right back down and hit one.
He silenced a Hawk Hill crowed that came believing it would see an upset and end the game bellowing their famed chant, "The Hawk Will Never Die!" in victory. Instead, the Bulldogs made the mad dash off the court in celebration.
"I definitely think coaching is what sets them on another level," Wilson said. "Their guys are extremely disciplined. They run their stuff extremely hard and they play together, the whole game. That was the main thing I noticed, just how together and how well-coached they were."
There was a buzz building on Hawk Hill over an experienced and talented team that was the preseason favorite to win a revamped Atlantic 10 and had their sights set on returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.
The Hawks knocked off then-No. 20 Notre Dame in overtime in November and lost to then-No. 11 Creighton in December.
Against their third ranked team of the season, with a packed house roaring from the opening tip, the Hawks came out flying. Wilson hit four 3-pointers in the first 5 minutes and Galloway made one for the fast 15-9 lead.
From there, the 3-pointers kept falling.
Clarke sank three to keep Butler in the game.
The Hawks brought their B-game defensively - as in, blocks. C.J. Aiken swatted one into the second row and Roberts followed with one on Butler's next possession that led to Wilson's fifth 3 of the game off the fastbreak for a seven-point lead.
The Hawks made 8 of 13 3-pointers in the first half; Butler was 6 of 13.
"I'm most excited about the fact that we stayed the course with what we said we were going to do and nobody panicked when things didn't necessarily go our way," Stevens said. "That is a good thing going forward."
The Bulldogs never lost their poise, even as Saint Joe's kept hitting. After all, a great crowd and a rugged road game are a regular experience for one of the most tournament-tested programs over the last five years.
"I didn't think coming here was going to be any big deal for them," coach Phil Martelli said.
Saint Joseph's was hardly a unanimous pick to win the conference. Butler was picked six, but was one of six teams to earn a first-place vote. The Bulldogs beat then-No. 1 Indiana 88-86 in overtime to show they just might finish higher than sixth.
The Bulldogs and Hawks played each other only once before, on Jan. 31, 1941. Saint Joseph's won 47-43. Wednesday's game was tied 46-all 3 1/2 minutes into the second half.
New conference, same Butler.
3A AREA PLAYOFFS: Verdigris battles Tahlequah Sequoyah in Checotah
Verdigris senior guard Caitlyn Hanslovan drained two key 3-pointers during Saturday’s Class 3A Regional Finals that provided a spark and a huge win over Vian.
Hanslovan, who is accustomed to winning state championships in soccer, will look to move the No. 3-ranked Lady Cardinals one step closer toward a berth in the 3A State Tournament at 6:30 p.m. on Friday in the area finals against Tahlequah Sequoyah at Checotah High School.
Catoosa HS set to host Class 6A Girls Area; 5A Boys Area tourneys
For high school basketball enthusiasts in Rogers County, Catoosa High School is the place to be on Thursday and Friday.
Catoosa High School will host the Class 6A Girls Area and Class 5A Boys Area over the two-day period.
Class 3A Regional Champions
It’s takes two to tango and the Verdigris basketball teams are dancing their way to the Class 3A Area Finals.
With a state tournament berth on the line Friday night, both Verdigris teams return to a familiar place on the road to state in Oklahoma City.
The Class 3A No. 3-ranked Lady Cardinals waltzed past Vian, 58-46 and the No. 4-ranked Cardinals decked Eufaula, 66-53 to cap off the regional championship night Saturday inside the Jack Collins Fieldhouse.
Claremore set to host 4A Area Basketball Tournament
Claremore High School will be a busy place Thursday through Saturday with several of the state’s top Class 4A basketball teams competing in the area tournament.
Forte key to OSU's postseason success
Phil Forte stands 5-foot-11, according to information provided by Oklahoma State, making him the smallest member of the Pokes' roster — and among the shortest in Big 12 Conference.
Waiting for best dunk
Markel Brown had to know Monday’s game against Kansas State would be special after knocking down a half-court shot for his only warm-up right before the National Anthem.
The moment came just minutes after the senior guard was recognized before the game in Gallagher-Iba Arena, which marked his last in an illustrious four-year career on the Stillwater campus.
MIAA MEN'S BB TOURNEY: NSU knocks off Washburn 79-75
The Northeastern State men’s basketball team ended the season for Washburn with a 79-75 victory Tuesday night in Lee Arena in the opening round of the 2014 MIAA Championship.
Adair rolls past Chelsea to win 3A Girls Basketball Regional Title
Keni Lippe scored 16 points, a quartet of teammates each had nine and the top-ranked Adair girls blazed past Chelsea, 70-23, to claim a 3A regional tournament title.
WRESTLING: Pryor pair makes state podium
It wasn’t exactly what Pryor head wrestling coach Roger White wanted, but two podium placements at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament this weekend in Oklahoma City is no small feat.
SOFTBALL: Arkansas-OU game rescheduled for April 30 in Fayetteville
Due to inclement weather and conditions, Wednesday's game between the University of Arkansas softball team and No. 13/19 Oklahoma has been rescheduled for April 30 at 3 p.m. (CT) at Bogle Park.
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- 3A AREA PLAYOFFS: Verdigris battles Tahlequah Sequoyah in Checotah