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Bulldogs dump Minutemen

AMHERST — UMass may have laid the colossal egg on Senior Night, but it was Butler that incubated it.

The Bulldogs controlled the tempo throughout Thursday night’s nationally televised game and handled the Minutemen on defense and the backboards, never trailing for a second in a 73-62 wipeout of the Minutemen at the Mullins Center — and it never even felt as close as that.

Butler, an Atlantic 10 Conference newcomer this season and now reportedly on its way out to join the Catholic schools of the fragmenting Big East Conference, fired the national basketball imagination in 2010 and 2011 with its improbable consecutive trips to the NCAA championship game. The Bulldogs (23-7, 10-5 A-10) are currently bubbling just under the Top 25 rankings, but their performance Thursday may have boosted their NCAA tournament consideration.

Meanwhile, UMass (18-10, 8-7 A-10) took a major hit to any NCAA hopes, barring a sustained run in next week’s A-10 postseason tournament, following its brief two-game late-season winning streak. Only a game at Rhode Island Saturday at 2 p.m. remains to finish out the Minutemen’s regular season.

Rotnei Clarke and Kameron Woods each scored 17 points to lead the Bulldogs. Khyle Marshall had 14 and 6-11 big man Andrew Smith posted a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds, part of Butler’s overwhelming 37-20 edge on the boards, 17 of them on the offensive glass.

“Getting outrebounded by 17 is unacceptable,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg. “The kid Smith did a great job of outworking our guys and solidifying the middle. They played well, they out-toughed us, and we didn’t do a good enough job of executing.”

Terrell Vinson, playing in his final regular-season home game for the Minutemen, led the way with 17 points before leaving the game for good with an apparent right hip injury. Sampson Carter put in 12, including nine in the game’s first 11 minutes. Chaz Williams had eight points, eight assists and four steals, but also turned the ball over five times and shot only 2-of-9 against a swarming Butler defense that sometimes put three defenders on the UMass point guard.

“They built a great wall against me. It forced me to get the ball out of my hands,” said Williams. “It was really frustrating, we never found our rhythm and it held us back a lot.”

UMass was fighting uphill from the outset Thursday, exhorted on by a near-sellout crowd of 9,341 whose support and noise level gradually waned and disappointment grew as Butler took and held control. The Bulldogs scored first on Clarke’s jumper 1:27 into the action and got a tip-in by Marshall. Carter sank a 3-pointer to make it 4-3, and UMass got as close as one point only once more all night.

The Minutemen strung together six in a row, including two fast-break buckets off steals, to cut a 15-7 deficit to 15-13 with 10:05 left, forcing Butler coach Brad Stevens to call a timeout. Freshman Trey Davis knocked down a 3-pointer to pull UMass to within 19-18. From there, the Bulldogs ran off nine straight points of their own, seven of them by Woods, who missed time in the first half after falling down and striking the back of his head on the hardwood.

Vinson ended the run with a jumper with 3:08 left, UMass’ first field goal in five minutes, but the half ground to a halt in the last couple of minutes and Butler took a 30-22 lead to the locker room.

Clarke then opened the second half with a trey and Marshall scored in traffic to make it 35-22 90 seconds in, leading to a UMass timeout. After that, the Minutemen never got closer than eight points — the last time at 43-35 with 14:05 to go — and could never bring the game into one- or two-possession territory.

UMass managed only one field goal over a stretch of five minutes as Butler methodically pushed its advantage to a game-high 16 points at 63-47.

One measure of the Minutemen’s inability to impose their will showed up in field-goal attempts, where they took only 44 shots from the floor, tying a season low. Their 20 field goals marked their second fewest in a game this season, and only sharp 18-of-21 shooting at the

foul line kept them within shouting distance of the Bulldogs.

“Our game is transition, and we weren’t getting transition points or clean rebounds,” said Williams. “We couldn’t really wear them down on defense.”

“As bad as we were playing, and as lopsided as I thought the game felt, we had a bunch of open threes that we didn’t knock down,” said Kellogg. “We could have potentially made a run. They outplayed us from start to finish. They looked like a team that’s beaten Indiana, Gonzaga and the like.”

The other UMass senior, Freddie Riley, scored five points. Davis hit a pair of 3-pointers, including one from just inside halfcourt at the final buzzer, for his six points and fellow freshman Tyler Bergantino got onto the floor late for a dunk.

UMass shot 45 percent from the field and only 4-of-18 from beyond the arc.

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