Rotnei Clarke's 22 points helped lift No. 11 Butler to a 68-63 road victory over Fordham at Rose Hill Gym. (Photo courtesy of Butler University Athletics)
Fordham head coach Tom Pecora's opening statement:
"I told them (our players) that we just played to the wire with No. 9, or No. 11, whatever they are. This team's getting better, but it just doesn't show in our record. We're trying to change the culture here, and the foundation for that is defending and rebounding."
On his technical foul and the intentional foul called against Fordham's Ryan Rhoomes:
"I got a technical, and I wanted one. I wanted us to get a whistle we deserved. I wanted them (the officials) to know that we were good enough to win this game."
On today's sellout crowd:
"I can't wait to sit down in another ten years and really enjoy myself up there."
On today's effort:
"Our game plan was 'inside-out.' We thought we needed to go full strength inside, I mean, look at them, (Butler's frontcourt) they've got a lot of big guys. I told our guys 'after the performance we had today, why can't we win our next five games?'"
On Butler guard Rotnei Clarke:
"He's a special player. The little bugger didn't stop, he's like the Energizer bunny with a 'J.'"
Fordham forward Chris Gaston (21 points, 6 rebounds) on his mindset:
"I was just trying to go out there and get a win. I feel it was a game we should have won."
On Butler's defense:
"They weren't doubling me as much. Most of the other teams in the A-10 double me, so I tried to take advantage of that."
Fordham forward Ryan Rhoomes (8 points, 8 rebounds) on his intentional foul call:
"I thought it was pretty crazy. I thought it was a bad call because I was playing hard and they were playing hard."
Butler head coach Brad Stevens' opening statement:
"I'm really excited about getting a win here. I love Rose Hill Gym, I think it's one of the neatest places I've ever coached in, it's straight out of 'Hoosiers.' I'm a huge fan."
On Rose Hill Gym and its tradition:
"When we played Penn at the Palestra, instead of our guys watching the scout tape, we had them watch the documentary on the Palestra, so this is right up my alley."
On winning yet another close game on the road:
"We live this, that's the bottom line. It's easy to say one team's going to win, but winning's really hard. Fordham has one of the best freshman guards in the league in Thomas, and they have a lot of big, big bodies."
On having center Andrew Smith available for 30 minutes:
"It was huge. I was shocked that he was able to play so much."
On Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham:
"They really stemmed the tide for us. Kellen made big ones when we needed him to, and Rotnei's just a game-changer with his ability to make shots, (there's) no doubt about that."
On Khyle Marshall and the intentional foul call against Ryan Rhoomes:
"You have to call it. It wasn't a dirty play by any means, but you have to call it. I had one of our kids almost not able to walk a month ago because of an intentional foul. (Rotnei Clarke against Dayton) Khyle's fine, and I wouldn't have put him back in there if he wasn't."
On the Atlantic 10 and its strength:
"It's really unique. The biggest thing, at least for me, is that we've played eleven games against eleven different teams. If you told me we were going to be 8-3, I'd say 'hey, that's great.' Now I'm just disappointed about Wednesday night." (Butler lost to Charlotte at Hinkle Fieldhouse)
Nuggets of Note:
- Chris Gaston came off the bench in his first game since Fordham's road loss to Charlotte on January 16th, and it was the decision of Tom Pecora and the Ram coaching staff, who wanted the crowd to react to Gaston's arrival and shake things up just a little more for Butler. The preclusion from the starting lineup seemed not to faze the senior forward, as he still collected 21 points and six rebounds on 9-of-17 shooting over 27 minutes.
- Gaston was a huge part of Fordham staying in this game, as the Ram front line picked up 41 of the 63 Fordham points on the day. Butler's defense pressured the Ram guards from the opening tip to the final buzzer, as the backcourt shot a combined 6-of-34 from the field and only managed four points from Branden Frazier. Mandell Thomas led the way for the Fordham guards, scoring all twelve of his points in the second half.
- Freshmen Travion Leonard and Ryan Rhoomes may have had two of their better games this afternoon, as the duo combined for 18 points and 17 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive glass despite Fordham being outrebounded 42-38. However, Ryan Canty's four fouls helped put Butler on the free throw line 34 times over the course of the day; and even though the Bulldogs only made 22 of those foul shots, it helped decide the game considering Fordham had several opportunities through the second half to come back at Butler, but to no avail.
- I'm not sure if I'm the only one who thinks this, but for all the great things that Branden Frazier has done this season, it seems as though the junior guard is not always able to hit clutch foul shots. Frazier had his chance with 6:46 remaining and the Rams trailing 53-48, but missed the front end of a one-and-one that would have turned a five-point deficit into a one-possession game and arguably changed the complexion of the stretch run with a sellout crowd that included Fordham alums Mike Breen and Michael Kay seemingly willing their alma mater to a valiant effort.
- Finally, there is no question that the intentional foul charged to Ryan Rhoomes with 14:37 remaining; as well as the subsequent technical foul assessed to Tom Pecora 24 seconds later, was what galvanized Butler and helped the Bulldogs control the remainder of the second half. Fordham had come out of the intermission on a 9-0 run to take a 35-30 lead, and Butler had managed five unanswered points to tie it at 35 before the Rhoomes foul. From that moment on, the Bulldogs scored eleven of the next thirteen points for an overall 16-2 run that put them ahead 46-37 before Travion Leonard ended Fordham's dry spell.