The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Local Sports

March 22, 2013

Butler appears to have a little March magic left in it.

Friday, March 22, 2013 — There aren't many Bulldogs left from the back-to-back national finalist teams of 2010 and  2011, but Thursday's 68-56 Lexington Regional second-round victory against Bucknell looked familiar.

Butler closed on an impressive 37-19 run to improve its recent three-year NCAA record to 11-2.

Coach Brad Stevens' Bulldog teams are now 12-4 all-time in the tourney. This season Butler's record is 27-8.

"This truly is a Butler team, which I feel really good about," said Stevens. "They have some mettle, some intestinal fortitude that is built up over time."

After struggling for most of the afternoon, senior Rotnei Clarke finished with 17 points, including a big 22-foot 3-pointer while falling down that gave the Bulldogs a 56-45

lead with 1:40 left.

"It was just a good feeling because it extended the lead a little," Clarke said. "We knew if we had a couple more stops, it could seal the game."

The Arkansas transfer, who was playing in his first NCAA tournament game, scored 13 of his 17 points in the final 8:40.  His shot capped an 8-0 run that took the Bulldogs from six points down, 37-31, into a 39-37 lead midway through the second half.

"I just feel extremely blessed to be able to play in the tournament. That's why I made the decision to come to Butler," he said.

The sixth-seeded Bulldogs will face 3-seed Marquette, which beat Davidson with a stunning 59-58 come-from-behind victory, on Saturday at Rupp Arena.

Andrew Smith — one of  only two Bulldogs with significant NCAA Tournament experience —  added 14 points and a career-high 16 boards. In addition,  he helped slow two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Mike Muscala, whose nine points was 10 below his average.

"[Smith is] a very good post defender," Muscala said. "You know, I tried to be aggressive. I thought I had some decent looks, [but] he did a really good job of being physical with me."

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