For the second game in a row, the Butler Bulldogslet a double-digit second half lead slip away late. Up one with 34 seconds left in regulation, Butler needed a defensive stop to hold off the Vanderbilt Commodores at home.
They didn't get one.
Eric McClellan's drive to the basket drew contact from an incredulous Kameron Woods and McClellan made one of two free throw attempts to force overtime. After leading by as many as 14 in the second half, the Bulldogs entered the extra period without any momentum.
Thankfully for the home crowd, senior Khyle Marshall stepped up with the game on the line. Scoring 16 of Butler's final 22 points, Marshall carried his team in the final ten minutes of play and earned the full respect of the Bulldog faithful for the night.
McClellan's final shot attempt in regulation is one that would probably have been a no call last season. However, with stricter rules on contact in place this year, end-game situations will probably see more players attack the basket looking to draw a foul. This may make for frustrated defensive players, but you have to expect the whistle to blow more often than not as referees and players adjust.
McClellan had a great game with so much focus on Rod Odom. Credit Butler's defense for holding Odom to a season-low nine points. McClellan went off for 29 on 9-of-21 shooting. For all the focus on Vanderbilt's ability to shoot the three, all of McClellan's points came from inside the arc or the charity stripe. He was 0-for-6 from long range. As a team, Vanderbilt shot 15 percentage points worse from three than their two-game average entering the night.
Kellen Dunham played 44 minutes for Butler and struggled a bit. He forced some shots and finished with a 6-for-15 line from the field. 16 points total. With a nine-man rotation for the most part, the start shooting guard should see a little more rest. Playing almost every minute each night in the Big East is a recipe for tired shooting legs.
Kameron Woods played 41 minutes down low. Almost another double-double for the rebounding specialist. Erik Frommand Alex Barlowboth struggled for different reasons. Fromm had trouble stepping out to make jump shots (1-of-6 for the night) and Barlow fouled out in just 20 minutes. Barlow's early season foul trouble continues to be a concern. If he can't stay on the floor, look for more of Jackson Aldridge (who played 20 minutes) and Rene Castro. One or the other may even be starting by the end of the year.
Ultimately, the night belonged to Khyle Marshall. A career-high 26 points and five rebounds. He struggled from the free throw line, which plagued the whole team (58.1 percent) and nearly cost Butler the game. However, he delivered when the team needed him most. Dunham and Elijah Brown (a tough 1-of-5 off the bench) remain the two most potent scorers on the roster, but Butler will only go as far as Khyle Marshall can take them this year.
So far, so good.
Butler is back in action Saturday with their first road game at Ball State.
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