GAME NOTES: The 18th-ranked Butler Bulldogs will look to extend their six-game
winning streak as they venture to Memorial Gym for a non-conference tilt with
the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Brad Stevens and his Bulldogs have been on a roll lately with wins over
Northwestern (74-65), Indiana (88-86 OT), and Evansville (75-67) in their last
three appearances. The team's current six-game winning streak improved its
overall record to 9-2, but it is just 1-1 on the road so far thanks to its
early season loss at Xavier (62-47). Butler has been excellent versus
opponents from top tier leagues with a 4-1 mark versus BCS conferences, the
only setback coming to Illinois in the Maui Invitational championship game.
The Bulldogs are decent on the offensive end with 74.9 points per game on 46.6
percent shooting from the floor, and they are limiting their foes to 67.3 ppg
with makes on 42.9 percent of their field goal attempts.
Vandy had its three-game winning streak snapped by a 56-52 loss to Middle
Tennessee on Dec. 21, which dropped it to 5-5 on the season. Coach Kevin
Stallings has his unit playing much better since its 1-3 start and it has
since managed to defeat a pair of notable opponents in Texas-El Paso (73-49)
and Xavier (66-64 OT). The Commodores are a much weaker team offensively this
season after losing three players to the NBA as their scoring offense average
is just 60.3 ppg. They are managing to win games due to a very tough defensive
effort that has limited opponents to 59.6 ppg, which is the fourth lowest
average among SEC schools.
The Bulldogs and Commodores have played three times before, and Butler has
been the victor in each previous meeting. The series has been idle since the
Butler used its inside-outside combination of Andrew Smith and Rotnei Clarke
to down Evansville last time out. Both players scored 20 points, while Kellen
Durham and Roosevelt Jones scored 13 and 12 points, respectively. Kameron
Woods also made a solid contribution with 10 points and a game-high 12 boards,
which helped the Bulldogs hold a 39-29 edge in the rebounding battle. Butler
was exceptionally productive at the charity stripe in the contest as it
converted 23-of-27 free throw attempts. Clarke, a 6-0 senior guard, is pacing
the squad with 17.7 ppg and Smith is making an impact in the paint with 11.5
points and 5.0 boards per outing.
The Commodores were not able to take down Middle Tennessee in their last
appearance despite a 25-point showing on 9-of-19 shooting by Kedren Johnson.
The rest of the team made a combined total of nine field goals in the loss.
Vandy struggled overall as it committed 18 turnovers and pulled down 25
rebounds to the Blue Raiders' 34 boards. Johnson is leading Vandy in scoring
with 17.8 ppg and Kyle Fuller is chipping in 12.5 ppg. Freshman guard Kevin
Bright has shown the ability to be a big time contributor as he recorded back-
to-back double-doubles versus Villanova (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Xavier
(11 points, 10 rebounds), but he has been held to less than 10 points and
rebounds in each of his last three games.
Vanderbilt's victory over Xavier, one of the two squads to beat Butler this
season, indicates these teams may not be too far apart in terms of talent.
However, the Commodores will need their role players to provide scoring
support for Johnson who will find it nearly impossible to engineer the upset
on his own. The Bulldogs, who have averaged 81 points per game over their last
four, are going to be incredibly difficult to defeat if they continue to find
success on the offensive end.