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Butler Surges Past La Salle And Into Atlantic 10 Semifinals Behind Rotnei Clarke and Kameron Woods | The Catch and Shoot

Butler Surges Past La Salle And Into Atlantic 10 Semifinals Behind Rotnei Clarke and Kameron Woods

By Jesse Kramer

In its first year as a member of the Atlantic 10, Butler (26-7, 11-5 A10) has continued its winning ways. The Bulldogs earned the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament this week, and after beating No. 12 seed Dayton on Thursday, they knocked off No. 4 seed La Salle (21-9, 11-5 A10) on Friday afternoon, 69-58.

“It’s an honor to play here in Brooklyn,” Butler head coach Brad Stevens said. “This is a great tournament and I feel like it’s going pretty well—so far.”

Butler opened the game on a 10-4 run with six points from Khyle Marshall and four points from Clarke. Inside of seven minutes in the first half, Butler held an eight-point lead, but Tyreek Duren ignited a run with back-to-back layups. A couple of minutes later Duren converted at the rim again to tie the score at 26-26. With 3:16 remaining in the period, Tyrone Garland drilled a three-pointer from the right wing to give La Salle its first lead at 32-31 and cap off a 15-8 spurt. A layup by Roosevelt Jones in the final minute gave Butler a 37-35 lead at halftime.

Butler led the entire way in the second half, although La Salle made a few runs that kept them within striking distance into the final five minutes. But the Explorers were unable to capitalize at the foul line and on a number of open looks from the perimeter.
“We had some free throws late to really cut it down. We had a wide-open three,” La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini said about the missed opportunities. “I felt there were times we could give ourselves a chance.”

Clarke, who missed Butler’s first meeting with La Salle due to a neck injury, was in the lineup for this game. Although he scored below his season-average and shot a mediocre 6-of-16 from the field, he was still Butler’s leading scorer with 14 and made a few timely buckets as the Bulldogs closed out the victory.

Kameron Woods provided a huge boost off the bench with 10 points and nine rebounds. The forward capitalized on La Salle’s small, four-guard lineup.

“We definitely talked about [the  four-guard lineup] coming into the game,” Woods said. “This game I was just trying to be relentless. Whether it be slipping a ball screen or in the post, I was just trying to attack the ball. When a shot went up, I’m trying to go get it. I was just trying to be really active and trying to go get the ball.”

Butler will move on to face Saint Louis, the No. 1 seed, in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

“How do you best prepare for [Saint Louis and what do you try to take away? Because they’ve got so many things they do well.” Stevens said. “I don’t care whether they’re ranked or what they’ll be seeded. When somebody that hasn’t played them watches them on tape next week, they’re going to say, ‘Uh oh.’”

As for La Salle, its semifinal-appearance drought will continue into next season. The last time the Explorers were one of the last four teams remaining in the Atlantic 10 tournament was 2002.

Butler held Ramon Galloway, La Salle’s leading scorer who earned a spot on the First Team All-Atlantic 10, to four points on 1-of-10 shooting. When La Salle hosted Butler in January, the Explorers Galloway was the hero with a game-winning in the final seconds.

“I told him to keep his head up. I told him our season’s not over,” Duren, a junior, said. “That’s not going to be the last basketball game of your life. Don’t let that affect your next couple of games.”

“[Galloway] is a really good player,” Stevens said. “We put our best defender on him. Roosevelt Jones is heck of a defender. There’s a reason he was all-defensive team.”

The Explorers are currently on the bubble for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. While a win against Butler likely would have solidified their spot in the field, now they will have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday.

Asked if he wanted to make a case for why his team belongs in the field of 68, Giannini said, “I don’t think I have to. Our record speaks for itself. Our standing finishing 3rd in a great league speaks for itself. We have some high-level wins. There’s no question that if we win today, we’re in. Now, we might be at the mercy of some other teams.”

Either way, the next 48 hours will be a long 48 hours for La Salle.

Author: Jesse Kramer

Jesse Kramer is the founder of The Catch and Shoot. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He has had work featured on SI.com, College Insider, The Comeback/Awful Announcing, and 247Sports.


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