DAYTON, Ohio — Leading scorer Rotnei Clarke fell headfirst into the backboard support, then rolled on his back and lay there dazed. He didn't even try to get up.
How bad was it? Wide-eyed Butler teammates gathered around and wondered.
“At that point, it's not about basketball anymore,” senior center Andrew Smith said.
Turns out that it wasn't as bad as initially feared — only a sprained neck — but it's still a significant setback for No. 14 Butler. The Bulldogs pulled through without their leading scorer on Saturday, using their depth to beat Dayton 79-73 for their 11th straight win. Roosevelt Jones scored 16 points, helping Butler (14-2, 2-0 Atlantic 10) extend its best start in four years.
They came away feeling fortunate that Clarke, a former Verdigris standout and the leading scorer in Oklahoma high school basketball history, didn't get hurt worse. He hit the bottom part of the padded backboard support after he was fouled while trying for a fast-break layup at 8:13 of the first half, his head and left shoulder taking the brunt of the collision.
At first, he lost sensation in his arms and legs.
“He said he couldn't feel anything,” Jones said.
He was able to move his arms and legs while trainer Ryan Galloy checked him out on the court. A padded back brace was brought out, and Clarke was taken off the court on a stretcher, giving the thumbs-up sign. He was taken to a nearby hospital for precautionary tests that were negative.
Clarke was later released from the hospital and returned to Indianapolis with his teammates, the Bulldogs said in a statement. Galloy said Clarke would have an MRI later Saturday, and after learning the results, the Bulldogs would have a better idea of when Clarke might return to the court.