With Indiana’s defense taking away shooters Rotnei Clarke, Kellen Dunham and Chase Stigall, former walk-on Alex Barlow beat Jordy Hulls off the dribble and got a tough leaner to drop with 2.5 seconds left on the clock as Butler knocked off the nation’s No. 1 team 88-86 in overtime in the Crossroads Classic.
Clarke and Stigall hit back to back threes with about a minute remaining to give the Bulldogs an 86-84 lead, but Cody Zeller scored on a driving layup with 20 seconds left to set up the final possession.
Does it get anymore Butler than that?
Butler was lucky to keep the game as close as they did down the stretch. After a 12-0 run was capped by a Stigall three with just under five minutes left in regulation, the Bulldogs had a 66-59 lead. But over the next two minutes, Brad Stevens’ team would lose both Roosevelt Jones and Andrew Smith to fouls. Those were the two best players on the floor for Butler on Saturday afternoon. Jones finished with 16 points, 12 boards and seven assists, and Smith went for 12 points and nine boards while also outplaying the Preseason Player of the Year in the paint.
We knew Butler was going to be able to play with anyone in the country this season. That’s what happens when you have size and toughness up front and a slew of sharpshooters in the back court.
But what I didn’t expect to see were the facets of the game in which Indiana struggled.
The Hoosiers were absolutely brutalized by Butler on the offensive glass. The Bulldogs finished with 19 offensive rebounds (and a 48.7% offensive rebounding percentage), and I’d be willing to wager that Will Sheehey was the biggest scapegoat. Erick Fromm, who Sheehey was matched up with, finished with 10 points and five boards -- all five offensive -- while also knocking down a pair of big threes.
The other issue I had was with how much difficulty Indiana had getting the ball into Zeller late in the game. I’ll have to go back and rewatch the tape on this one to figure out exactly what they did wrong, but the bottom line is that when you have a player as good as Zeller, you need to get him touches. Some credit has to be given to the Butler defense for making it difficult for Zeller to get position and for providing defensive pressure on the perimeter, but in the final three minutes and overtime, when Smith wasn’t on the floor, Zeller was being guarded by someone that was 6-foot-6. He needs to get those touches.
But only so much criticism can be lobbed after a game like this.
We saw comebacks. We saw overtime. We saw big shot after big shot after big shot. I haven’t even had a chance to mention that Indiana was able to make their comeback because of a steal and a layup from Victor Oladipo and a game-tying three from Yogi Ferrell, or that Clarke hit a couple of ridiculous 26-footers in big moments.
Butler earned this win, and they did so in one of the most entertaining games of the season.
That season-opening loss to Xavier feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it?