Dayton made the game interesting, but still fell to Butler, 79-73, at the Sweater Centre. It was a repeat of every UD loss this season – UD plays it close in the first half, the opponent stretches the lead in the second, Dayton battles back and cuts the deficit to make it a manageable game and the opposing team makes just enough plays to earn the victory in the end.
Rebounding kept the Flyers in the game, as UD was able to outboard the Bulldogs and get second-chance opportunities. However, getting a second look at the rim is only helpful if you can put the ball in the basket, something Dayton struggled to do all afternoon. Butler shot an impressive 58% from the floor, their offensive patience led to great looks from the perimeter, while the Flyers connected on a mere 39% of their attempts. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
The play of the game was Matt Derenbecker taking out Rotnei Clarke after the Butler guard picked his pocket clean. Although the play wouldn’t be classified as “dirty” in the classic sense (I’m thinking mid 1980’s Georgetown), it was clear that Derenbecker intended to physically make his presence known, coming down hard on Clarke’s back and sending the Arkansas-transfer into the base of the basket’s support. It was a textbook flagrant foul.
At first, Clarke looked at Derenbecker incredulously (pretty sure he said “What the fuck, bro? Not cool, dog”) before it became clear that he had suffered a potentially serious injury to his neck. Clarke was placed on a stretcher, gave the Mike Utley thumbs-up and was taken to whatever passes for a hospital in Dayton, likely the back of a van somewhere. Butler’s website did report encouraging news this morning: Clarke was released soon after the game ended, he never evacuated his bowels during the ordeal and none of his organs were cut out of his body while he was under the influence of medication. Godspeed, Rotnei.
Brad Stevens was absolutely masterful coming out of timeouts and implementing set plays. Two examples in particular:
- The Flyers cut the lead to six on a Vee Sanford three-pointer, the Sweaters were going apeshit and Butler needed a bucket to stem the tide. Coming out of a timeout with seven minutes to go, Stevens drew up a play that led to a wide-open layup for Roosevelt Jones, ending Butler’s scoring drought and extending the lead back up to eight for the Bulldogs.
- Vee Sanford hit a jumper to cut the Butler lead to just five with five minutes to play. The son of the Devil responded by signaling a thirty-second timeout and conjuring up a play that resulted in a wide-open three from center Andrew Smith (that’s when I knew the game was over).
Stevens had a chance to flex his devilishly clever tactical muscles and took great pleasure in doing so. Praise him.
The lone highlight of the contest was the play of freshmen Dyshawn Pierre and Khari Price. Pierre was a consistent source of offense for the Flyers, finishing the game with 14 points, and was aggressive on the board, pulling down nine rebounds. Price played with a steadiness and sense of composure previously unseen from the Louisiana freshman. He took what the Bulldog defense gave him, connecting on two open looks from beyond the arc (scoring a total of 10 points on the afternoon) and played 25 minutes without committing a single turnover. Price’s development over the next two months will be interesting to watch, as he is the obvious choice to take over the point-guard role after Dillard collects his diploma this spring.
Realizing these are two “top 25 quality” losses, the Flyers were underdogs in both, UD needs to get some wins quickly. A visit to Philadelphia to take on La Salle in the Goladome, a place where Dayton has historically shat the bed, won’t be the easiest of tasks for this Flyer squad. A third consecutive conference loss to begin their league schedule might be too much for this inconsistent UD squad to overcome. So, let’s ante up and call Wednesday’s game against the Explorers a “must-win.” There, I said it.
The Flyers are currently 0-2 in the league, joining St. Bonaventure…Duquesne….and Rhode Island. Yikes. Without a signature out-of-conference victory, UD likely needs to go 10-6 in the A10 to even be considered on the periphery of the NCAA Tournament. A cursory look at the remaining slate shows games at Xavier, Saint Louis and UMass – with home games against the Overlords, Temple, St. Joseph’s and Richmond. UD has some tough sledding ahead, every game is essential from here on out.