If Butler is to continue its longest winning streak in nearly two years, it must do so without leading scorer Rotnei Clarke.
Hoping to get by minus their injured senior guard, the No. 13 Bulldogs try for a 12th consecutive victory Wednesday night against Richmond in their first Atlantic 10 home game.Butler (14-2, 2-0) is off to its best start since opening 19-1 in 2008-09, but it will be without Clarke for at least this contest and Saturday's showdown against eighth-ranked Gonzaga. Among the A-10 leaders with 16.3 points per game and 44.4 percent 3-point shooting, Clarke sprained his neck after crashing into the basket support while being fouled as he drove for a layup in Saturday's 79-73 win at Dayton.Despite being taken off the court on a stretcher, Clarke was able to move his arms and legs and gave a thumbs up on the way out of the arena."I feel blessed to be walking," said Clarke, who spent his first three seasons at Arkansas. "When I hit my head, I rolled over and I couldn't feel anything from my neck down. That's what scared me the most. My body was just tingling. By the time (team trainer) Ryan (Galloy) got out there, I started getting some feeling in my hands, and after a while, I was fine in my legs."Though Clarke is expected to make a full recovery, the team does not plan to rush his return."Rotnei saw a spine specialist (Monday) and based on that visit and his previous examinations, we felt it was in his best interest to hold him out this week," Galloy said. "He is making progress and we will continue to evaluate him."Butler is certainly capable of succeeding without Clarke's production. He had a combined 10 points on 3-of-18 shooting in the first two games this month -- the Bulldogs won both by 13 points -- and they shot 58.1 percent while playing without him for all but 12 minutes Saturday.Roosevelt Jones had 16 points and seven rebounds, and Andrew Smith scored 13 as Butler hit a season-high 53.8 percent (7 of 13) from 3-point range."We were all relieved to hear Rotnei is all right," said the 6-foot-11 Smith, who has totaled 37 points in the last two games. "He's going to be out for a while. We'll pick him up."In the midst of their longest winning stretch since a 14-game run that ended with a loss to Connecticut in the 2011 national final, the Bulldogs are facing Richmond for the first time since a 69-68 loss at the Fiesta Bowl Classic on Dec. 28, 2004.The Spiders (11-6, 1-1) are paced by guard Darien Brothers, who averages 15.1 points and ranks among the national leaders in 3-point shooting at 51.1 percent. The senior, however, is 2 of 10 from beyond the arc in the last two games. He went 2 of 13 from the field and finished with seven points in Saturday's 71-59 loss at LaSalle.Richmond will play a fourth straight game without second-leading scorer and top rebounder Derrick Williams (13.6 points, 6.8 rebounds per game) because of an ankle injury.The Spiders have dropped six of seven A-10 road games while Butler has won 10 consecutive home games overall.