INDIANAPOLIS – Just minutes following his team’s 74-59 victory over Elon to open its season on Saturday, Butler men’s basketball coach Brad Stevens was already concerning himself with the Bulldogs’ next game.
Butler (1-0) will travel to longtime rival Xavier (1-0) today at 4 p.m. (ESPN).
“We’ve got our hands full,” Stevens said. “They won by 100 (in their opener). Like literally, didn’t they win by 100?”
No, the Musketeers didn’t beat Fairleigh Dickinson by 100 points, however, they did beat their opponent soundly (117-75), and Stevens’ point is well taken. The Bulldogs will face Xavier in what is a non-conference game, because it was scheduled prior to the Bulldogs joining the Atlantic 10 Conference last May.
The Musketeers are traditionally an explosive team and such a challenge defensively will now become a common occurrence for the Bulldogs, as they venture into a much higher level of conference. So it is a good thing that the 2012-13 version of Butler basketball – through 40 minutes anyway – has exhibited an ability to score in abundance as well.
“This group has a chance to be very good (offensively),” Stevens said. “So far, through the first game, it looks like we can do some things offensively.”
The Bulldogs jumped all over Elon early and often, or should it be written that Butler guard Rotnei Clarke jumped all over the Phoenix?
The fifth-year transfer from Arkansas scored the Bulldogs’ first dozen points and finished with 21 points in just 22 minutes of playing time.
Clarke hit half of his 10 three-point shot attempts and coupled with freshman guard Kellen Dunham, has transformed one of the worst perimeter shooting teams in the country into a dangerous one. It was arduous for the Bulldog Nation to watch their team clank through last season knowing that help was eventually on its way in the case of Dunham and Clarke, but not until last Saturday could Stevens take advantage of it.
“We wanted to shoot it better (this year),” Stevens said. “It’s kind of funny, all of these guys were already in the fold before last year even started, so it’s not like we went out and said ‘We’ve got to go get a couple of guys,’ they were already here.”
When Clarke had completed his personal 12-point barrage to start the game and the Bulldogs led 12-3, Dunham came off the bench and added an immediate three free throws. Dunham totaled 18 points on 5 of 10 shooting (3 of 8 from three point range), which was a Butler record for a freshman debut.
“Kellen is going to be on the floor a ton,” Stevens said. “Whether he starts or not, he’s considered a starter in my book. The thing that Kellen gives you that a lot of guys don’t is that he can go and go and go. He’s in terrific condition. He’s just at a higher level than a lot of guys that I’ve coached.”