Playing in a gym that resembled a theater, senior Rotnei Clarke put on a second half show and helped lift Butler to a 68-49 victory at Vanderbilt on Saturday. The victory was Butler's seventh straight.
Clarke, no stranger to Vanderbilt's Memorial Gymnasium, shook off a slow start to hit five of seven shots, including four of five from beyond the three-point arc, after intermission. The 6-foot guard finished with a game-high 22 points.
The Bulldogs (10-2) followed Clarke's lead in the final 20 minutes. Leading by just three points, 25-22, at halftime, Butler took control of the game with a 14-3 run to open the second half. Clarke scored six points in the run and four other players each added two. Vanderbilt (5-6) never got closer than ten points in the final 16 minutes.
"I thought the difference in the game was we got the ball moving a little bit," Butler coach Brad Stevens said in a release. "We didn't move it very well in the first half, but once we got it moving, we got a few shots."
Those shots fell at a torrid pace over the final 20 minutes. The Bulldogs shot a sizzling 65% (13-20) in the second half, including 75 percent (6-8) from beyond the three-point arc. The hot second half shooting, coupled with a solid, game-long defensive effort, helped Butler stretch the lead to as many as 25 points in the final minutes of the contest.
"We defended really well the entire game," Stevens said. "I told our guys it's the best we've carried over a defensive plan to game."
Clarke's performance didn't surprise Vanderbilt's fans. Two years ago as a junior at Arkansas, Clarke put on an even bigger show in Memorial Gym. He hit 12 of 16 shots, including six of eight from beyond the three-point arc, and scored 36 points to lead the Razorbacks to an upset of then-No. 19 Vanderbilt.
The Butler senior conceded that he felt comfortable in the Commodores' arena.
"The rims are soft and I've been able to get into a good rhythm here," Clarke said.
Clarke wasn't the whole show for the Bulldogs. Junior Khyle Marshall scored 11 points and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds, while helping Butler to a 42-27 rebounding advantage. He hit four of five shots from the field.
Freshman Kellen Dunham came off the bench and scored 12 points, including 10 after intermission. He connected on both of his three-point field goal attempts in the second half.
Sophomore Kameron Woods chipped in with four points, nine rebounds and a highlights-reel blocked shot.
Sophomore Alex Barlow matched his career-high with six points and added four rebounds, three assists and two steals, despite battling foul problems.
Kyle Fuller scored 10 points to lead the Commodores, who numbered Xavier among their victims this season.
Butler will return home to host Penn in a non-conference game on Wednesday at 7 p.m.