The 17th-ranked Butler Bulldogs close out their non-conference slate before embarking on their first foray into the Atlantic 10, as they welcome the New Orleans Privateers to Indianapolis for a showdown at the Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler is off to its best start since the 2008-09 season, having claimed victory in 11 of its first 13 games. The two losses have come against Xavier and Illinois, but the Bulldogs have won eight straight games since, including routing Penn on Wednesday, 70-57 to move to 6-0 at home.
The Privateers are in the midst of a six-game stretch that has featured five road games. The schedule has not been kind to the independent program, as New Orleans is just 3-9 overall, including losses in its last four games. The skein continued for UNO on Thursday, with a 97-46 whipping at Mississippi State.
This is the first time these two teams will meet on the hardwood.
When viewing the team's -9.8 scoring margin, it isn't hard to figure out why New Orleans has struggled to produce wins this season. The team is averaging 67.9 ppg on the year, but mediocre offensive numbers are magnified by a real lack of defense. The Privateers are allowing an alarming 77.8 ppg (334th nationally), as opponents are shooting .479 from the floor (332nd nationally). Scoring options are scarce on the UNO roster, as Lovell Cook is the only player in double figures at 13.3 ppg. Rarlensee Nelson is next in line at 8.9 ppg, followed by Cory Dixon and Corey Blake at 8.6 and 8.1 ppg, respectively.
It was once again turn-style type defense that doomed the Privateers last time out, as Mississippi State converted 56.5 percent of its shots, including 11- of-21 from 3-point range, while ringing up 97 points. Not a single player was able to reach double-figure scoring in the lopsided loss for New Orleans, as Cook and Kevin Hill tied for the team lead with just seven points apiece.
Butler shot just .439 from the floor, but was able to outscore the Quakers 16-5 at the free-throw line, own a 36-21 rebounding advantage and force Penn into 19 turnovers in the 13-point victory. Roosevelt Jones led the way, converting 10-of-15 shots from the floor to finish with 24 points. Khyle Marshall added 14 points, while Kellen Dunham chipped in 10 off the bench. Leading scorer Rotnei Clarke struggled to find his range, hitting just 2-of-11 from the floor to finish with just six points.
Clarke has been much more effective on the year, averaging 17.2 ppg, fueled by a .443 effort from 3-point range (51-of-115). Three others are enjoying double-digit averages in support, with Andrew Smith and Marshall netting 11.0 ppg each. Dunham has done some of his best work off the bench with 10.9 ppg. Jones (9.5 ppg) is eager to join the group and with a couple of more performances like the one against Penn, he will get there.