No. 11 Butler slips past Fordham
Bronx, NY (Sports Network) - Rotnei Clarke scored 22 points to lead 11th-ranked Butler to a 68-63 victory over Fordham on Saturday.
Roosevelt Jones had 13 points and eight rebounds, while Andrew Smith scored 12 points for the Bulldogs (21-5, 8-3 A-10), who came into the game off a loss against Charlotte on Wednesday.
"It was a great win," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "They were very hard to beat."
Chris Gaston recorded 21 points and six rebounds off the bench for the Rams (6-20, 2-9), who have lost six consecutive games. Mandell Thomas scored 12 points and Travion Leonard registered 10 points and nine rebounds.
"We just played the No. 11 team in the country down to the wire," Fordham head coach Tom Pecora said. "I was happy with our effort today. Even though the record might not show it, we're getting better as a team."
Entering the second half, Butler held a 30-26 margin. However, an early 9-0 run by Fordham gave the team a 35-30 advantage with 16 minutes left to go.
However, Butler scored 13 unanswered points over the next three minutes to take a 43-35 lead and the Bulldogs never looked back.
Fordham clawed its way back through the rest of the half and got within two, 65-63, with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.
A trio of free throws, though, gave Butler a 68-63 advantage with five seconds to go, putting the game out of reach.
Butler opened up the game with a 7-0 run, but Fordham returned the favor with a 9-0 run of its own. A dunk by Smith tied the game at 9-9 with 11:49 to go.
A pair of free throws by Ryan Rhoomes and a layup by Leonard gave Fordham a 13-9 lead and the Rams held on to the lead for nearly the rest of the half.
With 1:05 remaining, Jones made a layup while drawing a foul off Leonard, but couldn't get the free throw in. Clarke then scored from beyond the arc.
Branden Frazier attempted to shoot with two seconds left, but Kameron Woods stole the ball as the first half came to a close.
Clarke made all six of his free throws, including four in the final 1:54 ... Saturday's contest was the first time Butler and Fordham played each other since March 12, 1959, a 94-80 Butler win in the first round of the NIT.
02/16 23:42:37 ET