BROOKLYN, N.Y.–The University of Dayton men’s basketball ran the game plan it wanted to for most of the game, but couldn’t overcome the hot shooting of Butler University.
Redshirt senior guard Rotnei Clarke scored 21 points, including tying a season-high with six 3-pointers, and Butler ended UD’s Atlantic 10 tournament, as well as possibly its season, with a 73-67 win.
“Give Butler a great deal of credit,” UD head coach Archie Miller said. “They’re tournament tough. That’s a word you’ve got to use with those guys. They’re so well coached and they execute so well.”
Senior forward Andrew Smith added 18 for Butler.
After trailing at the half, Dayton went up by four in the first five minutes of the second half, but Butler made three in a row from three in a three minute span to take the lead for good.
“That got us stabilized and gave us a little bit of belief heading into the last 10 minutes,” Butler head coach Brad Stevens said. “I thought the series of plays from [forward Eric Fromm] kind of separated the game.”
UD was led by redshirt senior forward Josh Benson, who scored 18 points on a season-high 17 shots attempted. Redshirt senior guard Kevin Dillard added 15, and freshman forward Dyshawn Pierre scored 12.
Benson said he thought the team was in a good rhythm during the game, but the team’s defense hurt.
“At times, we have our mental lapses,” Benson said. “You know, those minor little breakdowns on defense and against a tough team like Butler, they’re a very systematic team and very well coached and they capitalized. I think we fought hard, minus our mistakes, and we just came up short.”
Dayton was able to push its way into the paint, outscoring Butler 48-28 and getting the shots it wanted from point blank range, according to Miller.
Miller said it was needed as it become evident Butler did not want Dayton getting looks from three. UD for the game attempted only four shots from three, with redshirt senior guard Dillard making two in the second half.
Dayton in the first half was led by redshirt junior guard Vee Sanford, who scored nine points in making all four of his shot attempts before picking up two fouls with just over seven minutes left in the half. Sanford only made one shot in the second half, finish 5-for-9 from the field.
Butler used a barrage of 3-point shooting to gain an eight-point lead, including three by redshirt senior guard Rotnei Clarke and two from senior center Andrew Smith. Dayton did not hit make either of the two three’s in attempted in the half, but was 13-of-26 from inside the arc.
“We just came out a little passive at first,” Clarke said. “We got in the flow a little bit and shots started to fall.”
Dillard scored all but two of his points in the second half, as he said he tried to move the ball more and find ways to get into the paint to help out his teammates. The points were not on his mind though.
“The points are good, but I’d rather take the win,” Dillard said.
Official word on any possible postseason bid may still be a few days away, but with the way Miller spoke of his two seniors, it may not be something the team is holding its breath about.
“I have a lot of admiration for the guys that have been here for my two years because none of them signed up for me,” Miller said. “From the start of this thing all the way through today, these two guys right here have embraced what we’ve tried to do and they’ve embraced a lot of change and have done a very good job with it.”