INDIANAPOLIS -- Rotnei Clarke's performance lived up to the buildup.
The senior guard, who missed the past three games after a freakish neck injury, had 24 points and nine assists to help No. 9 Butler beat Temple 83-71 on Saturday night.
Clarke left the Jan. 12 game at Dayton on a stretcher after running into the basket support, and it was uncertain when, or if, he would return to action. The crowd exploded when Clarke's name was announced during starting lineups, and it was nearly as loud when he left the game after scoring his final point with nine seconds left.
"It was heartwarming to have him back on the court," Butler coach Brad Stevens said.
Clarke hit the floor hard early in Saturday's game but continued to play. He said his neck felt a bit sore after the game, but it was no big deal.
"I wasn't worried about it," he said. "I was going to go out there and play the way I always play. When I did hit the floor, I felt fine. I got right back up and I was good."
Clarke made 13 of 14 free throws for the Bulldogs (17-3, 4-1 Atlantic 10), who bounced back from a loss at LaSalle on Wednesday. Khyle Marshall scored 19 points and Kellen Dunham added 17 for Butler.
The Bulldogs shot 52 percent from the field and outrebounded the Owls 35-25. Butler's 11 offensive rebounds were a particular concern for Temple coach Fran Dunphy.
"I worry about how many offensive rebounds we gave up," he said. "You spend 30 seconds working hard, they get an offensive rebound."
Khalif Wyatt scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half for Temple (13-6, 2-3). Scootie Randall had 13 points and Anthony Lee added 12 for the Owls.
Butler led by three at halftime, then started the second half with a flurry. A putback dunk by Marshall, who followed with a long 2-pointer on an assist from Clarke, gave Butler a 44-34 lead.
Clarke then hit a 3-pointer from about six feet behind the 3-point line to push the lead to 49-38.
Temple rallied again. An 8-0 run, highlighted by two 3-pointers from Randall, cut Butler's lead to 54-51. A 3-point play by Randall tied the score at 56.
Butler came back with an alley-oop dunk from Marshall on an assist from Clarke and two 3-pointers by Dunham to take a 64-58 lead. Clarke found an open Roosevelt Jones for a layup to give the Bulldogs a 70-60 lead.
Dunphy said Dunham is particularly difficult to deal with when he's in the game with Clarke.
"He made a couple of timely baskets," Dunphy said. "When a kid like Dunham comes off the bench, it's difficult to defend. You've got Clarke on the other side. They have a lot of weapons. I like their team."
Temple closed to six points in the final minute, but Clarke made six of six free throws in the final 27.7 seconds to put the game out of reach.
Wyatt scored on two 3-pointers to give Temple an early 8-2 lead.
Clarke was fouled twice on 3-pointers and made five of the six free throws to cut Temple's lead to 10-9.
Temple went on another run, and a 3-pointer by Wyatt put the Owls up 21-14.
Butler rallied with back-to-back 3-pointers by Dunham, cutting Temple's lead to a point, and a driving layup by Clarke gave Butler a 22-21 lead.
Temple took a 26-24 lead before Butler went on a run. A 30-foot pass from Clarke and dunk by Kameron Woods tied the score, then Clarke and Dunham hit 3-pointers in a 10-0 run that gave the Bulldogs a 34-26 lead.
Temple hung tough, and a 3-pointer by Jake O'Brien with two seconds left cut Butler's lead to 37-34 at halftime.
The Owls, who beat Syracuse and nearly knocked off Kansas, said Butler is comparable.
"They're solid," Wyatt said. "One of the best teams we've played."
NOTES: Temple won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title last year. ... Dunham averaged 13.3 points in the games that Clarke missed. He entered Saturday's game averaging 10.9 points overall. ... It was the first meeting in history between the schools. ... Jones was Atlantic 10 Player of the Week for games Jan. 14-20.