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01/09/2013 11:16 PM EST
No. 14 Butler tops Saint Joe's 72-66 in A10 debut
BUTLER 72, SAINT JOSEPHS 66

By DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- New conference, same Butler.



Rotnei Clarke scored 28 points and Andrew Smith had 24 points
and 10 rebounds to lead the No. 14 Bulldogs to a 72-66 win over
Saint Joseph's on Wednesday night.



The Bulldogs (13-2, 1-0 Atlantic 10) are no longer bullying
their way over teams in the Horizon League. Butler made its A-10
debut one to remember, holding Saint Joseph's without a field
goal for a 9-minute stretch in the second half to rally for the
win.



Butler, losers of consecutive NCAA championship games in 2010
and 2011, proved it's going to be a threat to win another
conference title, no matter the name of the league.



"New kids on the block," coach Brad Stevens said. "It probably
doesn't help that we're ranked, whatever that means. But it does
add to the environment you play in."



Clarke responded to a loud and upset-minded crowd on Hawk Hill
with six 3-pointers to help the Bulldogs win their 10th straight
game. Clarke's 3 were about automatic. So were the boos that
erupted each time he touched the ball.



Butler was hardly basketball's darling in Philadelphia - just
the way Clarke liked it.



"That's what you work for, being able to go on the road and play
in tough venues with hostile crowds and being able to hit shots
that quiet crowds," he said. "I think that's one of the fun
things about playing on the road."



Chris Wilson scored 15 points, and Ronald Roberts Jr. had 12
points and nine rebounds for the Hawks (8-5, 0-1).



Langston Galloway airballed a 3-pointer, then missed a second
attempt on the same possession in the final minute to end Saint
Joseph's chances. Halil Kanacevic also missed a pair of 3-point
attempts with the Hawks down four.



"I would love to have them back," Galloway said. "I was wide
open, but came up short."



Clarke, who once scored 51 points in a game while at Arkansas,
punished Saint Joseph's from beyond the arc for 39 minutes. He
made his six 3s on 10 attempts. When the Bulldogs were off the
mark, no worries. Smith was there to grab the big boards and
score the inside buckets (8 of 15 from the floor).



Clarke's 3 for a 57-56 lead gave the Bulldogs never
relinquished. Each time the Hawks inched closer, Clarke just
pushed them back - from deep. Galloway's 3 made it a two-point
game. But Clarke, one of the top 3-point shooters in the
conference, came right back down and hit one.



He silenced a Hawk Hill crowed that came believing it would see
an upset and end the game bellowing their famed chant, "The Hawk
Will Never Die!" in victory. Instead, the Bulldogs made the mad
dash off the court in celebration.



"I definitely think coaching is what sets them on another
level," Wilson said. "Their guys are extremely disciplined. They
run their stuff extremely hard and they play together, the whole
game. That was the main thing I noticed, just how together and
how well-coached they were."



There was a buzz building on Hawk Hill over an experienced and
talented team that was the preseason favorite to win a revamped
Atlantic 10 and had their sights set on returning to the NCAA
tournament for the first time since 2008.



The Hawks knocked off then-No. 20 Notre Dame in overtime in
November and lost to then-No. 11 Creighton in December.



Against their third ranked team of the season, with a packed
house roaring from the opening tip, the Hawks came out flying.
Wilson hit four 3-pointers in the first 5 minutes and Galloway
made one for the fast 15-9 lead.



From there, the 3-pointers kept falling.



Clarke sank three to keep Butler in the game.



The Hawks brought their B-game defensively - as in, blocks. C.J.
Aiken swatted one into the second row and Roberts followed with
one on Butler's next possession that led to Wilson's fifth 3 of
the game off the fastbreak for a seven-point lead.



The Hawks made 8 of 13 3-pointers in the first half; Butler was
6 of 13.



"I'm most excited about the fact that we stayed the course with
what we said we were going to do and nobody panicked when things
didn't necessarily go our way," Stevens said. "That is a good
thing going forward."



The Bulldogs never lost their poise, even as Saint Joe's kept
hitting. After all, a great crowd and a rugged road game are a
regular experience for one of the most tournament-tested
programs over the last five years.



"I didn't think coming here was going to be any big deal for
them," coach Phil Martelli said.



Saint Joseph's was hardly a unanimous pick to win the
conference. Butler was picked six, but was one of six teams to
earn a first-place vote. The Bulldogs beat then-No. 1 Indiana
88-86 in overtime to show they just might finish higher than
sixth.



The Bulldogs and Hawks played each other only once before, on
Jan. 31, 1941. Saint Joseph's won 47-43. Wednesday's game was
tied 46-all 3 1/2 minutes into the second half.



---



Follow Dan Gelston on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APGelston

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