The 11th-ranked Butler Bulldogs seek a quick turnaround after suffering their first home loss of the season, as they take on the Fordham Rams on Saturday in an Atlantic 10 Conference matchup at Rose Hill Gym.
Brad Stevens' Bulldogs have acclimated to their new conference quite well, as the team has asserted itself as one of the A-10 elite with an impressive 20-5 record. However, Butler is now sitting in third place in the league standings following Wednesday's 71-67 loss to Charlotte at the Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Tom Pecora's Rams have struggle both in and out of conference this season and are currently saddled with a 6-19 overall record. Wins have been even harder to come by in-conference, with Fordham buried in the standings, currently one game out of the conference cellar at 2-8. To make matters worse, Fordham comes into this contest with an ugly five-game losing streak in tow, including Wednesday's 79-66 setback at Xavier.
Butler won the only previous meeting between these two teams, a 94-80 victory in the first round of the 1959 NIT.
Butler fell victim to an efficient offensive performance by the 49ers this week, as Charlotte converted 54.2 percent from the floor, compared to a mere 39 percent effort from the hometown Bulldogs. Despite the setback and less than efficient shooting, four Bulldogs finished in double figures, led by Rotnei Clarke's 18 points. Roosevelt Jones poured in 17, while Erik Fromm and Kellen Dunham finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Butler was without starting center Andrew Smith (11.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg) against Charlotte, but the big man could return in this game. Still, Butler usually goes as Clarke goes. The Arkansas-transfer has been a dynamic leader in his first stint with the team, leading Butler in the scoring column at 17.0 ppg. Jones (10.6 ppg), Dunham (10.6 ppg) and Khyle Marshall (10.0 ppg) round out the team's top scoring threats.
The Rams have struggled this season primarily because they have been porous at the defensive end. Fordham suffers from an ugly -11.4 scoring margin by allowing foes to net an alarming 76.7 ppg. Only eight teams at the Division I level are allowing more points. Branden Frazier and Chris Gaston are the only currently double-digit performers, averaging 15.0 and 14.0 ppg, respectively. Gaston (8.1 rpg) has missed more than half the season, including the loss at Xavier, but he is expected to play against Butler and is a welcome site to the frontcourt. Still, depth behind those two is scarce. Mandell Thomas and Bryan Smith are the next closest scorers at 8.8 and 8.1 ppg, respectively.
Just a freshman, Thomas has made a solid impact with the team, including a career-high 23 points in the loss to Xavier. Frazier added 11 points, while Ryan Canty finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.