Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlantic 10 Tournament's top seed held off a pesky Butler team to punch its ticket to the championship game against either VCU or Massachusetts.
Unrelenting defense and a stellar performance from Dwayne Evans helped the No. 16 Saint Louis Billikens survive a battle with the Butler Bulldogs in the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals Saturday at Barclays Center.
The Billikens used a key stretch midway through the second half to open their lead and eventually pull out a 67-56 win. After Butler's Roosevelt Jones made a layup with just under 13 minutes left, Saint Louis clamped down on defense and did not allow a Bulldog field goal for the next seven minutes. Kameron Woods hit a layup near the 6:00 mark to finally stop the drought, but the Billikens were already in control.
Evans hit a fall-back jumper with 3:29 left and was fouled by Chase Stigall for the Billikens' largest lead at 13. That was part of a stretch in which the forward scored 12 straight points for Saint Louis. He finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead Saint Louis.
And while Evans dominated the game, he was helped off the bench by Cody Ellis, who knocked down four threes, contributing to a total of 15 points.
Rotnei Clarke and Jones led the way for Butler. Clarke got the Bulldogs' offense going early with a pair of quick threes and had 16 points for the game, though he struggled with his shot. After those first two threes, he was just 5 for 13 and 0 for 4 from beyond the arc for the rest of the afternoon. But Jones provided a lift and gave the Bulldogs a solid post presence. He scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds. Jones fouled out with 1:53 to play and Butler down 12.
Saint Louis has now beaten Butler three times this season. The Billikens blew Butler out when they met in St. Louis in January, then stole a four-point victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse in February.
The Billikens now await either VCU or Massachusetts in Sunday afternoon's championship game. Tip is set for 1 p.m. ET and will air on CBS.
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