The Butler Bulldogs fell for the sixth time this season in a 65-61 upset to Saint Louis Friday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Butler didn't fare any better the second time around, as it previously fell to its Atlantic 10 foes by a 75-58 margin on the road.
Could it be a case of taking teams too lightly, especially at home, for Butler? None of the Bulldogs' three home losses have come against ranked opponents.
Friday night's only NCAA men's basketball contest featuring a Top 25 team wasn't supposed to be a highly contested affair for the hosting Bulldogs. In a season where no ranked team is safe from upset, this serves as an extended notice.
Butler took a 34-29 lead into the half thanks to a 14-point performance by Kellen Dunham. Saint Louis responded after the break, coming out firing on all cylinders and attacking the basket. The Billikens had the hosts on their heels, leading by as many as nine points before the Bulldogs bounced back down the stretch.
The home team was able to cut Saint Louis' lead to just one point. Saint Louis fought off the comeback, though, playing tough defense and getting to the basket.
Center Andrew Smith chucked up and missed a three-pointer after Butler fell to a five-point deficit with just one minute left to play. Butler resorted to fouling in the final minute and the strategy paid off, as the Billikens missed back-to-back one-and-one opportunities from the charity stripe.
Butler’s Roosevelt Jones got his chance from the line, but hit just one of his two attempts to leave Saint Louis ahead by two points. Saint Louis’ Mike McCall Jr. hit two straight from the line to extend the Billikens' lead to four points with just 19 seconds to play.
Rotnei Clarke lost the handle, and the game, by turning it over on the ensuing possession, sealing the upset for the visitors. Saint Louis did give the Bulldogs a second chance by missing the ensuing free throws, but they had little time and couldn't find the basket in the waning seconds.
Jason Bennett of ESPN's Aussies Abroad tweeted a picture of the full Hinkle Fieldhouse prior to ESPN University's weekly Friday-night matchup:
Jason Bennett @Aussies_Abroad
GAMETIME - Butler vs St Louis for A10 lead. Packed house going nuts! Catch it LIVE on http://t.co/AJeDGYK0gI. http://t.co/5PkZhpyOq72013-2-23 00:06:59
Rich Nye of WTHR Indianapolis broke down the first half in a simple recap while highlighting the half's top performer:
Rich Nye @NyeSportsGuy
Kellen Dunham 14 1st half points, playing the most aggressive offensively I have seen from the freshman. Butler leads St. Louis 34-29.2013-2-23 00:52:17
The second half made the Bulldogs faithful worried after their team controlled the first half. ESPN's College BBall account pointed out what was at stake in this one:
ESPN College BBall @ESPNCBB
This St. Louis/Butler game on @ESPNU is getting interesting! Winner will have sole possession of 1st place in the Atlantic 10!2013-2-23 01:34:46
CJ Moore, a college hoops writer, gave his takeaway from this awesome matchup:
CJ Moore @CJMooreBR
However far you're tempted to put Butler in your bracket, pick St. Louis to go that far. SLU's really, really good.2013-2-23 01:25:27
Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated commented on the Billikens' struggles at the free-throw line in the final minutes of the game:
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
As @pacersck would say Saint Louis is leaving a lot of "cheese" at that line.2013-2-23 02:02:19