NEW YORK -- Butler narrowly avoided a second straight upset, holding on against a stubborn Fordham for a 68-63 Atlantic 10 Conference victory at Rose Hill Gym on Saturday.
Rontei Clarke scored 22 points for No. 11 Butler, while Andrew Smith returned from an abdominal injury to score 12, including four free throws in the final minutes to hold off the Rams.
Butler (21-5 overall, 8-3 in the Atlantic 10) fended off the Rams (6-20, 2-9), who lost their sixth straight game, despite leading early in the second half and pulling to within two points in the last minute.
Chris Gaston led Fordham with 21 points, including eight straight for the Rams during a key stretch in the second half, while Mandell Thomas hit two 3-pointers in the final minute to bring Fordham within 65-63 with 18 seconds left.
But Smith, who missed Charlotte's upset of the Bulldogs to end Butler's 12-game home winning streak this week, hit four free throws in the final minutes.
Clarke made two free throws after Luka Zivkovic missed a game-tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds.
It was the second meeting in the schools' history and first since an NIT matchup at Madison Square Garden in 1959.
Fordham hung in with the Bulldogs in the first half, trailing, 30-26, at halftime, after leading, 26-23, with 2:42 left when Bryan Smith made two free throws for the Rams.
But Butler, which shot only 37 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from the line in the first half, reeled off the final seven points for the four-point lead at halftime.
NOTES: Andrew Smith started for Butler, returning earlier than expected from an undisclosed abdominal injury he sustained against George Washington last Saturday. ... Butler forward Khyle Marshall was injured and on the ground for a few minutes late in the first half after being elbowed by Fordham forward Travion Leonard. Marshall eventually sat up and was helped off the court, while still getting attended to on the bench. ... Several noted broadcasters and Fordham alumni, NBA announcer Mike Breen, Yankees and ESPN announcer Michael Kay and ESPN broadcaster Ryan Ruocco, attended the game, attired in the free white T-shirts the school distributed before the game. ... The schools have little history against each other, but share plenty of tradition at their respective home courts, as Rose Hill Gym is the oldest on-campus venue used by an NCAA Division I basketball team. It was built in 1925, three years before Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse.