A new rivalry is formed as Atlantic 10 Conference action opens up on Wednesday night with a matchup between the 14th- ranked Butler Bulldogs and the Saint Joseph's Hawks at Hagan Arena.
Butler has gotten its first season as a member of the A-10 off to a great start, winning 12 of 14 matchups to climb up the national rankings. The Bulldogs' latest victory came in a 57-44 decision over New Orleans last Saturday. Butler has racked up a handful of signature wins already by beating North Carolina (82-71) and Marquette (72-71), but the crown jewel was an 88-86 overtime victory over then-No. 1 Indiana back on Dec. 15.
Following back-to-back road wins over Drexel (63-49) and Morgan State (70-60), Saint Joseph's sits at a solid 8-4 through the first two months of the season. The Hawks have proven to be giant killers once already this season, having taken down Notre Dame back in mid-November, 79-70, in overtime.
The Bulldogs own the only win in their series with Saint Joseph's, but that 55-50 triumph was way back in March of 1941.
Butler has had much better efforts than the one put forth against New Orleans last weekend, as the team shot below 41 percent from the floor and committed 15 turnovers, but it was still able to hang on for the 13-point win by allowing a season-low 44 points. Kellen Dunham was a spark off the bench with 15 points on the strength of three 3-pointers, while Khyle Marshall chipped in with 13 points and eight rebounds, and Roosevelt Jones finished with a line of 11 points, six boards and four assists. The Bulldogs have typically been much more efficient from the field this season, draining better than 46 percent of their total shots for 72.8 ppg -- its scoring margin sitting at plus-9.2. Rotnei Clarke is one of the A-10's most potent scorers, pouring in 16.2 ppg thanks mostly to his 52 3-pointers made at a 43 percent clip. Dunham (11.2 ppg), Marshall (11.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Andrew Smith (10.9 ppg) are also effective, as is Jones, who just misses the double-digit scorers club with 9.6 ppg.
Saint Joseph's was able to capture an impressive 10-point road victory by outshooting Morgan State from the field, .444 to .304. Carl Jones and Langston Galloway each had strong scoring games with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Ronald Roberts added a double-double in the triumph with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Halil Kanacevic stuffed the stat sheet with seven points, 12 boards, five assists and three blocks (and also six turnovers). The Hawks' offensive output has been disappointing this season, as their scoring average of 68.2 ppg ranks in the lower half of the A-10. On the other hand, they have been solid on defense, allowing just 62.4 ppg, which ranks sixth in the league. Jones (15.6 ppg) and Galloway (15.0 ppg) contend for the team's top scorer on a nightly basis, and the two have combined to drain 55 of the squad's 87 buckets from beyond the arc. C.J. Aiken (12.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, A-10- best 3.1 bpg) and Roberts (10.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg) have been solid in the paint, while Chris Wilson (8.0 ppg, 3.9 apg) and Kanacevic (7.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.9 bpg, 1.4 spg) round out SJU's six-man rotation, all of whom average at least 31 minutes per game.