NEW YORK -- Rotnei Clarke scored 21 points and Andrew Smith added 18 as fifth-seeded Butler pulled away in the second half to beat Dayton, 73-67 in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. Erik Fromm added nine points for Butler (25-7, 12-5 A-10), including seven in a key stretch, Thursday at the Barclays Center. Butler will play fourth-seeded La Salle (21-8, 11-5) on Friday at 2:30 p.m. Josh Benson led the 12-seeded Flyers (17-13, 7-10) with 18 points. Senior Kevin Dillard, a second-team all-conference pick, scored 15 points for Dayton, after hitting just one field goal in the first half. Fromm scored seven straight points for Butler late in the second half to help the Bulldogs earn some breathing room. His dunk on a fast break gave Butler its biggest lead of the game at that point, 62-52, with 5:18 left. It punctuated a 9-2 spurt and followed a layup and 3-pointer for Fromm during the run. The Flyers were never able to seriously threaten Butler the rest of the game. Held to two points in the first half, which Dayton ended down three, Dillard gave the Flyers their first lead since midway through the first half early in the second. His jumper put Dayton up 40-39 with 16:01 left. He added a 3-pointer less than a minute later for a four-point lead. But Butler hit three straight 3-pointers, with Clarke hitting two of them, giving the Bulldogs a 48-45 lead when he hit one with 12:21 remaining. Butler held a 33-30 lead at the half, with Clarke, the Bulldogs' first-team all-conference guard, scoring 11 points and Smith nine. The Bulldogs took a 30-22 lead thanks to a 9-3 run late in the first half. Smith hit consecutive 3-pointers and Clarke later added one to give Butler the eight-point advantage with 4:21 left in the half. But Dayton closed within three by outscoring Butler 8-3 the rest of the way before the break as Dyshawn Pierre had four points and an assist during the stretch. Sanford led the Flyers with nine points before the half. Notes: La Salle squeezed out a 54-53 home win over Butler on Jan. 23 in the teams' only matchup this season. ... Dayton finished the regular season having won four of its final six to make the tournament. ... Butler beat the Flyers 79-73 on Jan. 12, a game mostly remembered for costing Clarke three games with a neck injury after he crashed into the basket support following a hard foul by Dayton's Matt Derenbecker. ... The teams led the A-10 in key stats, respectively, with Dayton leading the conference in field-goal percentage (48.9) and the Bulldogs owning the best rebound margin per game (plus-7.2). ... The Bulldogs, who had been ranked in the AP poll for 11 straight weeks before dropping out, dropped back-to-back contests to the tournament's top seeds, St. Louis and VCU. Butler then won its final two games before entering the tourney as the fifth seed, losing tiebreakers after finishing in a three-way tie for third.
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