The Butler Bulldogs are built on continuity, and that was missing in last nights loss. The visiting Charlotte 49ers took advantage of Butler being without seven-footer Andrew Smith. Much like Ryan Kelly with Duke, Smith does a lot of the little things that go unnoticed yet keep his team going.
Without their glue guy, the Bulldogs got out-rebounded and gave up too many points in the paint.
Smith, out because of an abdominal injury he suffered during a scramble for a loose ball against George Washington, provides senior leadership, timely shooting and length on the defensive end of the floor. He is the second-leading scorer and rebounder for the team and having started 91 of his last 93 games, provides an obvious comfort zone for both the players around him and his coach.
His replacement, Erik Fromm, played admirably with 13 points and nine rebounds, but it was noticeable that Butler lacks the depth to replace the minutes that Fromm usually provided off the bench.
Charlotte took advantage of this opportunity and upset the No. 11 team in the nation by playing physical and dominating the paint. They out-rebounded the home team by three, shot better from the field (54% to 39%), and managed to make as many free throws as Butler attempted (17). Each of those little things added up to a huge 71-67 victory that further muddles the unpredictable Atlantic 10.
With this win Charlotte keeps itself in the hunt, and only 1 1/2 games back of leader VCU.
Smith may not be a Wooden Award finalist, but players like him are necessary on every team in the nation. Players that understand, accept and perfect their role are invaluable for team success. Hopefully he can come back quickly and help right the ship for Butler heading into tournament time.