Butler proved it's resilient enough to win a challenging game on the road without its best player on Saturday. Now the Bulldogs hope they won't have to attempt to accomplish that feat too many more times.
In easily the scariest moment of a busy Saturday in college basketball, Rotnei Clarke crashed headfirst into the basket stanchion after Dayton's Matt Derenbecker fouled him in mid-air attempting a first-half layup. Clarke remained down on the court for almost eight minutes before being taken off the floor via stretcher, flashing a thumbs up to the crowd as he left.
Though courtside TV microphones captured Clarke initially saying he couldn't move and he had numbness in his hands, the Butler guard also insisted to trainers, "I'm not coming out." Thankfully common sense prevailed and he was taken to the hospital for a CT scan and X-Rays.
The Indianapolis Star reported Clarke sustained no spinal damage, will come back with the team to Indianapolis and should be able to return at an undetermined date later this season. That was a relief to everyone but especially Derenbecker, who was assessed a flagrant foul and anxiously watched trainers treat Clarke from near the Dayton bench with both hands atop his head.
"He has my deepest condolences for what happened," Derenbecker told the Star. "I want to say from my heart I did nothing on purpose, and I think the film shows that."
If Butler's toughness was at all in doubt prior to Saturday, the way the Bulldogs responded to Clarke's absence should silence any doubters. Ten different players scored and the Bulldogs overcame 16 Dayton offensive rebounds to pull out a 79-73 win at one of the Atlantic 10's toughest road venues.
[More NCAA hoops: N.C. State becomes legit ACC contender by toppling Duke]
Chase Stigall sank a pair of threes off the bench for his first points since the Indiana upset last month. Kellen Dunham also helped pick up the outside shooting slack for Clarke with a pair of threes of his own. And the frontcourt trio of Andrew Smith, Khyle Marshall and Roosevelt Jones combined for 41 points to ease the pressure on the guards.
Butler improves to 14-2 overall and 2-0 in the Atlantic 10 with a pair of road victories over two teams who figure to finish in the upper half of the league. It will be a harder road to the Atlantic 10 title for the Bulldogs if they're without Clarke for a while, but as they've shown time and time again the past few years, don't bet against them.
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