Former Midwestern Collegiate Conference foes will get after one another in the Atlantic 10 Conference, as the ninth-ranked Butler Bulldogs come calling on the Saint Louis Billikens at Chaifetz Arena on Thursday.
Brad Stevens' Bulldogs have settled in nicely in their new conference surroundings and currently sit atop the A-10 standings at 4-1. Butler is 17-3 overall and has some huge wins over the likes of Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana and Gonzaga already on the resume. The team's lone league loss came last week at La Salle (54-53), but Butler was able to distance itself a little with last weekend's 83-71 victory over Temple.
Jim Crews has led Saint Louis to an impressive 14-5 overall record this season, a mark that includes a 3-2 league ledger. The Billikens have used stifling defensive play to frustrate most opponents, including last weekend, as the team recorded a 67-57 road win at St. Bonaventure. The victory was the second straight for Saint Louis, which has won 11 of its last 13 games overall.
Saint Louis holds a 16-11 advantage in the all-time series with Butler, but the Bulldogs have won three of the last four meetings. These two squads are matching up on the hardwood for the first time since the 2003-04 campaign.
Butler has shown the ability to win games at either end of the floor this season, but it was its offensive proficiency that stood out in the win over Temple. The Bulldogs got standout Rotnei Clarke back in the lineup after missing time due to injury, and the senior guard seemed to not miss a beat, pouring in a game-high 24 points. Khyle Marshall finished with 19 points and Kellen Dunham added 17, as Butler shot a scorching .520 from the field against the Owls.
The Bulldogs come into this contest averaging 71.6 ppg, on a healthy .466 shooting. Clarke has certainly contributed in those areas, netting a team-high 16.7 ppg, shooting a hefty .434 from 3-point range (62-of-143). Four others supplement Clarke's contributions with double-digit averages of their own. Andrew Smith (11.7 ppg), Dunham (11.3 ppg), Marshall (10.5 ppg) and Roosevelt Jones (10.4 ppg) give the team plenty of options offensively.
Saint Louis takes another route to win games, leading the A-10 in scoring defense at a mere 57.8 ppg (18th nationally). It's a good thing too, because the play at the offensive end has been lacking at times. The Billikens are just 12th in the A-10 in scoring at a meager 66.7 ppg. Cody Ellis leads the team at 11.2 ppg despite not starting a single game. Mike McCall Jr. and Dwayne Evans are the other top producers, netting 10.8 and 10.7 ppg, respectively.
The Billikens jumped all over the Bonnies on the road last Saturday, taking a 15-point lead into intermission and holding St. Bonaventure off in the second half. Evans had a strong game, finishing with team-highs of 18 points and eight rebounds. Ellis added 10 points off the bench, while Grandy Glaze, McCall and Jordair Jett chipped in nine points apiece.