The Butler men’s basketball team suffered its first home loss of the season Wednesday night, losing 71-67 to Charlotte at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Junior forward Erik Fromm started in place of senior center Andrew Smith who suffered an abdominal injury during last Saturday’s game against George Washington.
The Bulldogs’ (20-5, 7-3) shooters struggled in the first half, shooting only 18.2 percent from behind the three-point line and 33.3 percent from the field.
Sophomore forward Roosevelt Jones was the first half’s leading scorer and rebounder with nine points and five rebounds.
Senior guard Rotnei Clarke scored only three points in the first half, going one-for-five from beyond the arc.
The 49ers (18-6, 6-4) took a 29-27 lead to halftime after a layup at the buzzer by Charlotte guard Pierria Henry was waived off by officials, then ruled good, then waived off again.
Butler struggled inside in the second half as they missed several scoring opportunities close to the basket.
The Bulldogs were outscored in the paint 38-24.
Charlotte was ahead by as many as 10 points, with 4:26 to play in regulation.
However, Clarke would finally find his rhythm in the final minutes of the game, scoring 15 of his 18 points in the final 3:21.
A Clarke 3-pointer with 6.7 seconds remaining brought the score to 68-67 and the Bulldogs found themselves within a point of the 49ers for the first time since the 16:23 mark in the second half.
Jones then fouled Henry who went to the line and made his first free throw. Senior guard Chase Stigall grabbed the rebound after Henry missed his second attempt and coach Brad Stevens called timeout with three seconds remaining.
Following the timeout, Charlotte senior forward E. Victor Nickerson stole Stigall’s inbounds pass to end Butler’s chance for a victory.
“It would have been, probably, a disservice for Butler to win that game,” Stevens said. “I thought Charlotte was great. I knew Charlotte coming in was going to be really hard for us to matchup with, in large part because their strengths are certainly something that we counter better with Andrew (Smith) than without.”
Stevens said he will not know what adjustments he will make going into this Saturday’s contest at Fordham until he watches film of the Charlotte game.
“We started Fromm and (freshman guard) Kellen (Dunham), obviously, and we thought that, everything we had suggested that with Andrew out, Fromm and Kellen are a good combination, and so we went with that,” Stevens said. “I felt relatively good about the way our starters played, for the most part. Not everybody but most of the starting lineup. And I think that’ll probably be similar Saturday, I don’t know that we’ll start exactly the same.”
The Bulldogs’ bench was held scoreless against the 49ers’ defense.
Fromm said he knew he had to rise to the challenge of starting in place of Smith.
“In terms of defense, I feel like we have guys that are capable and guys that are willing and able to step in, especially in big games, in a home game when you have someone who’s not there,” Fromm said. “You can’t think of excuses for a guy being gone. You have to take it to the chest and say this is my duty now, this is my game, I need to fill in where Andrew’s going to be gone and we’re just going to play the way we always play and that’s the way we need to think about it until Andrew comes back.
The Bulldogs will still be without Smith for this Saturday’s game in New York.
The game at Fordham tips off at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.