Butler Falls In A-10 Semifinals
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Junior Dwayne Evans scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the second half and helped carry top-seeded Saint Louis to a 67-56 victory over Butler in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference Men's Basketball Championship on Saturday (March 16). The loss ended the Bulldogs' run in their first A-10 Tournament at the Barclays Center.
Evans hit seven of 10 shots from the floor and nine of 11 from the free throw line to spark the Billikens (26-6), who won the conference regular season title. He also led all players with 11 rebounds in the game, while adding three steals.
The performance by the Saint Louis all-conference forward spoiled an otherwise strong defensive effort by the Bulldogs. Butler limited the rest of the Billikens' lineup to just 13 field goals and 37% shooting.
Butler (26-8), coming off back-to-back wins over Dayton and La Salle and playing its third game in three days, more than held its own with the Billikens in the first half. Senior Rotnei Clarke gave the Bulldogs the lead at 8-6 with a three-point field goal, and Butler didn't trail again until Rob Loe hit a lay-up at the buzzer to give Saint Louis a 27-25 halftime lead.
The game was tied four times and the lead never exceeded four points in the first eight minutes of the second half. But the Billikens began to take control with an 8-0 run that stretched a 42-41 lead to 50-41 with 7:45 remaining. Evans had four of the eight points.
The Bulldogs trailed by six points, 51-45, with 6:14 left, when Saint Louis unleashed another run to put things out of reach. Evans scored the first nine points of the decisive 15-4 run, and the Billikens were on their way to the conference title game.
"I thought our guys, until the last 10 minutes of today's game, really showed themselves great in the tournament," stated Stevens. "Certainly the No. 1 factor in the last 10 minutes was Saint Louis. I've said all year to people who've listened and to some who don't, how good they are. They are a legitimate contender for the whole (NCAA Championship)."
"And the second factor, and certainly a far factor because Saint Louis beat us. That's why you try to get the bye. The third game in three days against a team that physical, that's going to steer you and ride you and be on you, you've got to have some stuff for you to face that for 40 minutes when you're fresh. You kind of saw in the last 10 minutes, they got better and we didn't."
Clarke led the Bulldogs with 16 points, but he was the lone Butler player to notch double-figures. Roosevelt Jones, who spent most of the afternoon battling Evans, finished with eight points and eight rebounds, while Andrew Smith added eight points.
The loss was Butler's third to Saint Louis this season. The Billikens will play for the A-10 Tournament championship against VCU on Sunday (March 17) at 1 p.m. (ET). The game will be televised nationally on CBS.
The Bulldogs, who have three "Top 10" wins this season and were ranked as high as No. 9 in the national polls in January, will have to wait to see what their NCAA Tournament fate will be. The team will gather to watch the tournament selection show on Sunday.