INDIANAPOLIS – Penn slowed down Rotnei Clarke, Butler's leading scorer. The Quakers just struggled with the other Bulldogs.
Roosevelt Jones scored a career-high 24 points to lead No. 17 Butler to a 70-57 victory over Penn on Wednesday night.
The Quakers (2-10) put up quite a fight against Butler (11-2).
But the Bulldogs outrebounded Penn 36-21 and forced 19 turnovers, five more than they committed.
"The game just came down to us not having unforced turnovers," Penn coach Jerome Allen said. "Just not catching the ball, dribbling it off our foot and rebounding the ball. Nineteen turnover and giving up 13 offensive rebounds, you're not going to win many games in Division I college basketball."
Penn stayed close throughout despite its troubles on the glass and with ball possession.
"I want us to lose a game because a team is more talented than us or they are just flat out superior," Allen said. "We keep losing games because we don't rebound and we don't value the ball."
Clarke entered Wednesday's game averaging a team-high 18.1 points but struggled mightily against Penn. The 6-foot guard was held to a season-low six points on 2-of-11 shooting. It was only the second time all season the senior did not score in double figures.
"They are a good defensive team, they did a good job with him," Stevens said. "It was the same level of attention that he's gotten in every other game, he wasn't as good tonight as he's been. Pretty simple. That doesn't mean he won't be great tomorrow, that doesn't mean he won't be great the next day. He just had one of those days that he wasn't as good as he usually is."
The Quakers trailed 52-49 with under 9 minutes remaining before an 18-8 run sealed the game for the Bulldogs.
"I knew it was going to be hard tonight because they are really well-coached and they run a lot of great stuff and they are getting better every game," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "That's usually the sign of a team ready to break through."
Miles Cartwright led Penn with 15 points and Tony Hicks added 10.
Butler tied a season-low with four 3-pointers in 19 attempts and the Quakers connected on 8 of 15 from beyond the arc.
Khyle Marshall added 14 points and freshman Kellen Dunham contributed 10 points as the Bulldogs showcased how they can win without the sharpshooter Clarke hitting.
"I definitely think that we have a lot more weapons on the floor," Marshall said. "As you can see, Rotnei did not have a great night tonight but we still had plenty of guys step up."
Luckily for the Bulldogs, they had Jones to count on.
The sophomore's previous career-high of 17 points came twice last season. Jones made 10 of 15 shots as he scored almost exclusively with layups and runners.
"I just let the flow of the game come to me," Jones said. "And if I'm on, I'm on. If I can feel it, I'm going to try and take great shots and hopefully they fall in."
Penn did not force Jones to shoot any jumpers as he was able to find the rim at ease.
"One thing he does well is he stays within himself," Allen said. "We talked about how of his 24 points, I don't think he took one jump shot."
After Alex Barlow's game-opening 3-pointer, Butler went ice cold from beyond the arc.
Penn tied the score at 18 after a 3 from Lewis with 9:19 remaining in the first half.
Clarke connected on his only 3-pointer of the game and snapped the Bulldogs' seven consecutive misses from downtown to give Butler a 23-18 lead.
The Bulldogs led 35-29 at halftime and had more offensive rebounds (11) than the Quakers had total rebounds (8). Penn was held without an offensive rebound in the first half and finished with three.
"That was certainly an emphasis for us to get to the glass," Stevens said. "I thought it was the difference of the game, the power inside."
Five minutes into the second half, the Quakers cut the lead to 42-40 on an offensive rebound and layup by Darien Nelson-Henry.
The Bulldogs responded with seven straight points, including two dunks from Marshall, before the Quakers came back with seven straight of their own.
On consecutive possessions, Hicks made a 3-pointer and then a layup to bring Penn within 52-49 with 8:42 remaining.
Jones scored six of the next eight Butler points, including a steal and coast-to-coast layup to put the Bulldogs ahead 60-49 with 5:50 left.
On the steal and layup, Jones was running the court with a defender on his hip the entire time and still laid the ball in with ease.
"I felt that I was going to make it, I feel that I'm going to make every shot I take," Jones said. "It just so happens today that most of my shots were falling."
The Quakers would only get as close as eight points the rest of the game.
Butler has opened the new year with a victory for the ninth straight season.