Butler used toughness, defense and a punishing rebounding effort to snap a two-game skid and pull out a 73-62 victory over Massachusetts at Mullins Center on Thursday.
The victory kept the Bulldogs squarely in the hunt for a top four finish in the Atlantic 10 Conference and a first round bye in the conference tournament.
"I've been around a lot of resilient and tough-minded Butler teams in my career," Butler coach Brad Stevens said in a release, "and for these guys to come in here and do what they did tonight was really a testament to them."
Butler (23-7, 10-5 A-10) had a number of strong individual performances in the win over the Minutemen (18-10, 8-7 A-10), who were celebrating "Senior Night" in front of a crowd of 9,341. Topping the offensive effort were senior Rotnei Clarke and sophomore Kameron Woods, who shared team scoring honors with 17 points apiece.
Clarke was coming off a five-point performance in Butler's loss at VCU last Saturday, but scored 11 of his points in the second half against the Minutemen when the Bulldogs built as much as a 16-point lead.
Woods came off the bench to hit seven of 11 shots, while compiling a career-high scoring total.
Senior Andrew Smith, who had just six points and three rebounds at VCU, recorded his third double-double of the season with 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. His work on the boards helped the Bulldogs to a 37-20 advantage as a team and a 17-5 margin in second chance points.
Junior Khyle Marshall hit six of seven shots and scored 14 points in 20 minutes before fouling out in the second half. It was his third time in double-figures in the past four games.
Sophomore Roosevelt Jones turned in another complete-game performance with six points, seven rebounds and a career-high eight assists, while sophomore Alex Barlow, bumped from the starting lineup, came off the bench with four clutch points, three assists and a career-high four steals.
UMass, just a game behind Butler in the conference standings, was coming off an impressive 77-72 win at Xavier and had scored at least 76 points in six of its previous seven games. However, the Bulldogs limited the home squad to just 22 points in the first 20 minutes, while building an eight-point halftime lead.
That defensive tenacity continued in the second half. The 62 total points matched the second-lowest output by Massachusetts this season, and the Minutemen needed a long three-point field goal at the final buzzer to top 60 points.
Clarke and Marshall scored the first two baskets of the game, and Massachusetts was left playing catch-up for the rest of the contest. The Minutemen closed to within a single point on a couple of occasions, but the home squad could never take the lead.
Senior Terrell Vinson, playing his final regular season game at the Mullins Center, led the Minutemen with 17 points, while junior Sampson Carter added 12.
Butler will close out the regular season at home against Xavier on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. It will be "Senior Night," and a post-game ceremony honoring Smith, Clarke, Chase Stigall and Emerson Kampen will follow the game.
BUTLER 73, UMASS 62
Jones 2-4 2-3 6, Marshall 6-7 2-4 14, Smith 2-8 9-13 13, Clarke 6-16 2-2 17, Dunham 1-7 0-0 2, Smeathers 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan 0-0 0-0 0, Barlow 2-2 0-0 4, Fromm 0-0 0-0 0, Aldridge 0-0 0-0 0, El. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0, Em. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0, Woods 7-11 3-3 17, Stigall 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-55 18-25 73.
Carter 3-6 5-6 12, Vinson 6-9 5-6 17, Lalanne 2-4 1-2 5, Williams 2-9 4-4 8, Riley 2-6 0-0 5, Esho 0-3 2-2 2, Bergantino 1-1 0-0 2, Davis 2-3 0-0 6, Putney 2-3 1-1 5. Totals 20-44 18-21 62.
Halftime—Butler 30-22. 3-Point Goals—Butler 3-19 (Clarke 3-12, Smith 0-1, Dunham 0-6), UMass 4-18 (Davis 2-3, Carter 1-3, Riley 1-5, Esho 0-1, Vinson 0-2, Williams 0-4). Fouled Out—Marshall. Rebounds—Butler 37 (Smith 15), UMass 20 (Carter, Lalanne, Williams 4). Assists—Butler 18 (Jones 8), UMass 15 (Williams 8). Total Fouls—Butler 19, UMass 18. A—9,341.