(14) Butler (19-4) at George Washington (11-10) (ET)
GAME NOTES: The 14th-ranked Butler Bulldogs continue their first tour through the Atlantic 10 Conference, as they take on the George Washington Colonials in a league bout at the Charles E. Smith Center on Saturday afternoon.
Brad Stevens' Bulldogs have established themselves as a contender for the A-10 crown despite this being their first season in their new league. With marquee wins over the likes of Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana and Gonzaga, there is no denying the team's overall talent. Butler is currently sitting at the top of the conference standings, tied with Saint Louis and VCU at 6-2 and enters this contest having won back-to-back games over Rhode Island (75-68) and most recently, St. Bonaventure (77-58).
Despite being one of the youngest squads in the nation, Mike Lonergan's Colonials have shown signs of vast improvement of late, with wins in four of their last five games. The recent success has pushed GW over .500 on the year at 11-10, with a solid 5-3 mark in-conference. The Colonials were on the road earlier this week and were extremely impressive in a 79-57 rout of Duquesne.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.
The Bonnies were no match for Butler's offensive proficiency on Wednesday, as the Bulldogs shot an even 50 percent from the floor, including 11-of-26 from 3-point range. Rotnei Clarke was once again instrumental in the Bulldogs' win, netting a team-high 17 points. Andrew Smith finished with 13 points in the win, while Khyle Marshall and Chase Stigall chipped in 12 points apiece.
Balanced scoring is the name of the game for Butler, which is averaging 71.4 ppg with five players currently averaging double figures. Clarke has been superb in his first season with the team. The Arkansas-transfer is averaging 17.1 ppg, thanks in large part to a .440 effort from behind the arc. His 73 3- pointers ranks eighth nationally. Smith is a complement in the middle. The senior center is averaging 11.6 ppg and converting 55.7 percent of his shots. Kellen Dunham adds 10.5 ppg and is another sharpshooter with 41 treys to his credit. Marshall and Roosevelt Jones round out the top threats with 10.3 ppg each.
The Colonials have experienced their fair share of highs and lows this season, but with four freshmen currently in the starting lineup, that is to be expected. George Washington comes into this contest averaging a modest 66.8 ppg, but is doing so on a healthy .450 shooting. Isaiah Armwood, the lone senior starter, is also the team's top scoring option at 12.2 ppg. Fellow senior Lasan Kromah has been in and out the starting lineup and adds 9.9 ppg to the mix. Freshman Patricio Garino chips in with 9.6 ppg.
George Washington displayed one of its best offensive performances of the season in the win over Duquesne, as the team converted 50.8 percent from the floor, while dominating on the glass, with a 47-27 edge in rebounds. GW held a huge 44-14 advantage in points in the paint, while the reserves for the Colonials outscored the Dukes' bench, 40-18. Kromah spearheaded that attack, posting a team-high 19 points in 22 minutes of work. Armwood had a huge game inside, with a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double. Freshmen Joe McDonald and Kevin Larsen finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Colonials are starting to come together as a team, but may be overmatched in this one. Behind the play of Clarke, Butler may very well be the cream of the crop in the A-10.