INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Smith scored 15 points, Kellen Dunham added 11 and No. 13 Butler used a stifling defense to pull away from Richmond for a 62-47 victory in its first Atlantic 10 Conference home game Wednesday night.
Butler (15-2, 3-0) heads into Saturday's home showdown with No. 8 Gonzaga on a 12-game winning streak. The Bulldogs won despite losing their top scorer, Rotnei Clarke, who missed the game with a severely sprained neck and has already been ruled out of Saturday's game.
Richmond (11-7, 1-2) was led by Darien Brothers with 12 points but has lost two straight and five of its last seven. The Spiders were playing without their second-leading scorer, Derrick Williams, who missed his fourth straight game with a sprained ankle.
But of all the ways the Bulldogs have won games, this may have been the most intriguing.
Four days after Clarke crashed head-first into a basket support at Dayton, the Bulldogs responded by digging down and doing the dirty work defensively.
Richmond came into the game averaging 71.2 points and shooting 45.4 percent from the field. It was nowhere close to that Wednesday.
The Spiders started the game by going 4 of 22 from the field. By halftime, they were at 28.6 percent and finished at 32.7 percent.
The Bulldogs also had a bench full of players helping to replace the 16.3 points Clarke was scoring.
It looked easy.
Butler broke an 8-8 tie with a 7-0 run midway through the first half. Then, after Terry Allen finally hit a 3 for Richmond, the Bulldogs responded with eight straight points to make it 23-11 with 5:26 left in the half.
And after Deion Taylor's second 3 closed Richmond's deficit to 25-17, the Bulldogs closed the half on an 8-4 spurt that ended with Alex Barlow's 3-pointer to make it 33-21.
Things didn't get change much in the second half.
Butler made two baskets in the first 1:45. It took Richmond more than four minutes to match that total and it took another five minutes before Cedrick Lindsay finally made Richmond's third basket of the second half – a 3 with 11:31 to go that cut the Bulldogs' lead to 46-29.
Richmond did make one charge, using a 9-0 run to close to 50-41 with 8:23 left. But the Bulldogs thwarted the rally, expanded the lead to as much as 15 and didn't let the Spiders get close again.