INDIANAPOLIS — Butler sophomore guard Alex Barlow might be a walk-on player with limited offensive skills, but that doesn’t mean he can’t see.
So after 44 minutes and 40 seconds of terrific basketball Saturday at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Barlow was well aware that Indiana’s Cody Zeller, christened the No. 1 player in the nation on the
No. 1 team by many publications, was on the bench.
Barlow dribbled into the paint against Hoosier guard Jordan Hulls, then flipped up an 8-foot shot that hit the side of the rim, bounced off the middle of the backboard and went through the net to give the Bulldogs an 88-86 overtime upset.
The shot set off a wild celebration at mid-court for the Bulldogs in front of a capacity crowd of more than 19,000.
“Once the clock got down to six seconds, I was going to take that shot,” said Barlow, who scored all six of his points in the final 5:16 of the game. “Zeller was out, and there wasn’t anyone in the middle. I tried to get as deep as I could.”
Butler’s first win in program history against a No. 1-ranked team also spoiled the perfection in Indiana’s march toward Big Ten play. Butler raised its record to 8-2 while Indiana is 9-1.
“I don’t care much about rankings,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens. “We’ll probably be ranked, but that doesn’t mean we are better than last week. And Indiana will be a team to beat in April.”
Indiana appeared to be an impossible team to beat Saturday when freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell dropped a 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime at 76-76. Butler had led 71-64 with 2:22 remaining but suffocating full-court defensive pressure by Indiana turned the tide.
Ferrell’s dramatic shot appeared to keep Indiana on its unbeaten path. Butler was in deep foul trouble at the end of regulation, and Zeller had zero fouls.
When Zeller scored four consecutive points early in the overtime period, Indiana led 84-80.
“We were in trouble,” Stevens said. “Three of my guys were sitting on the bench next to me.”
Butler’s Roosevelt Jones (16 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists), Andrew Smith (12 points, nine rebounds) and Eric Fromm (10 points, five rebounds) all had fouled out, and that represented the bulk of Butler’s inside strength.
But Butler responded with 3-point bombs from Rotnei Clark (19 points, 5 for 11 from the 3-point line) and Chase Stigall (six points). Suddenly, the Bulldogs had an 86-84 lead.
Zeller scored Indiana’s final two points of the game before Barlow’s big shot.
Butler outrebounded Indiana 40-38. “The bottom line is that we didn’t rebound the ball well enough,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “Our communication was sporadic at crunch time. The big theme where we need to improve is rebounding and shoring up our defense.”
Despite his team’s first loss, Crean was positive the Hoosiers would benefit from tough competition in a neutral environment. “We needed a game that was physically tough and imposing,” he said. “There is no question we can go into a tough environment. This was tough for us.
“(Stevens) would want you to think it this was Chaminade vs. Virginia. That’s not true. They are good.”
Whether or not the winning shot came from a walk-on, Butler once again proved it should be considered one of the nation’s top teams. But the upset did create some special moments for the Bulldogs.
“You grow up playing in your backyard and thinking of this moment,” Barlow said. “A last second shot against the No. 1 team. Not in my wildest dreams.”
The Hoosiers will be dreaming about some inconsistent play. Indiana forward Victor Oladipo (18 points, four assists, four steals) and Ferrell (12 points) had some tremendous moments, but they also had equal shares of a combined 12 turnovers.
Ferrell, a point guard, was Indiana’s top rebounder with eight. Zeller (18 points) had five rebounds.
“There are a lot of little things we need to figure out,” Zeller said. “Everyone has to play better. Me included.”
Crean said that he thought Zeller did some really great things during the game, such as getting to the free-hrow line for 14 shots, but added, “I know he has to get more than five rebounds.”