Come March, this one would have looked good on Saint Josephs NCAA Tournament resume.
Instead, it will go down as a missed opportunity. The Hawks opened conference play with a 72-66 loss to No. 14 Butler on Wednesday night at a sold-out Hagan Arena. The Hawks defeat snapped their season-high three-game winning streak, while marking the Bulldogs 10th consecutive victory.
A pair of Halil Kanacevic free throws narrowed St. Joes deficit to just two, 68-66, with less than three minutes left in the game, but the Hawks couldnt break through. Andrew Smith made two foul shots to increase Butlers lead to four and the Hawks missed their final six shots.
The talented duo of sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke and Smith, the veteran big man, paced Butler. Clarke led all scorers with 28 points, while Smith recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Chris Wilson led four Hawks in double figures with 15 points, all of which came on first-half three-pointers. Ronald Roberts added 12 points, a team-high nine rebounds and a game-high four blocks.
Wilsons three-point shooting fueled the Hawks in the early going, and they took a 40-35 lead into halftime. Wilson, who entered the day with just seven threes on 30 attempts for the season, hit four shots from beyond the arc in the first 4:49 of the game. The sophomore point guard finished the half with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, all from long range.
Roberts chipped in nine of his points, six rebounds and three blocks for the Hawks, who shot 43.8 percent in the period. Clarke led Butler with 13 first-half points on 5-of-14 shooting. Smith scored 10 points and brought down four rebounds. The Bulldogs turned the ball over only twice the entire half.
Inside the box score
Clarke needed 22 shots to tally his 28 points, but was also 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.
St. Joe's shot 25.9 percent in the second half after recording a 43.8 clip in the first.
Wilson attempted only one shot in the second half.
C.J. Aiken and Roberts combined to block seven shots, while Butlers entire team recorded only two swats.
Wednesday night marked just the second meeting between these programs, the first coming on Jan. 31, 1941. Coached by Bill Ferguson in that game, St. Joes knocked off the Bulldogs, 47-43, at Philadelphias Convention Hall.
In the first of two consecutive conference road games, the Hawks play at Duquesne on Saturday at 7 p.m.
E-mail Jake Kaplan at firstname.lastname@example.org