NCAA: Unranked Butler stuns #1 Indiana
Two years ago, Alex Barlow was playing basketball for the Archbishop Moeller High School team and fielding offers to play baseball at a number of Division 1 colleges. Barlow sported a batting average that hovered in the .600 range on a team that was consistently ranked in the top 100 in the country and boasts alumni with MLB fame such as Ken Griffey, Jr., Barry Larkin and Buddy Bell. When the time came to pick a college though, Barlow decided he had seen enough of the left side of the infield and wanted to see more of the hardwood inside an arena, but primarily to coach. With that in mind, Barlow headed up Interstate 74 from his home in Cincinnati, OH to Butler University in Indianapolis, IN and tried to make the Bulldogs’ squad as a walk on so that he could get close to the man he felt could teach him the fine art of leading a basketball team, head coach Brad Stevens. The thing was, Butler had just come off two consecutive seasons where they lost in the NCAA National Championship game (they lost to Duke in 2010 and UConn in 2011), so recruiting was at an all time high and his task was that much harder. Barlow made the squad and as a freshman saw court time in 16 games, scoring six total points. This season, as a sophomore, he’s played in half as many games already, played close to the same amount of minutes and has dropped in twice as many points (18), but the two points he tallied on Saturday night might be the two that has him appreciate the fact that he turned in driving curveballs into a gap for a base hit for the sound of a ball slicing through the bottom of the net.
Number 1 ranked Indiana made the 60 mile trek from Bloomington to Indianapolis to square off against in-state rivals Butler in an early season non-conference game that most everyone predicted would be little challenge to the Hoosiers.
At the end of the first half, Indiana held a 33:37 advantage, and in the second half had built a seven-point margin with nine minutes to play. At the time, two of Butler’s key starters were on the bench with four fouls each and when they returned the Bulldogs reeled off 12 unanswered points to take a 66:59 lead with just over four minutes to play. Indiana dropped in five straight free throws late in regulation to close the gap to two, 71:69, and they didn’t even it up until freshman Yogi Ferrell hit the cords with a three-ball with 6.1 seconds to play. Butler’s Chase Stigall got off a shot at the buzzer for the win, but it came up short and the squads headed into extra time.
Indiana took control early in the OT frame, getting up 80:84 with just over two minutes to play. Butler used the long-ball to their advantage, sinking two from behind that arc in the closing minutes to take the lead late in stanza, but pre-season collegiate player of the year pick, Cody Zeller, powered his way to the basket with 19.3 seconds on the clock to tie the contest again, this time at 86 each.
That’s when the infielder from Cincinnati, following his heart and love for hoops, saw an opening in the Indiana defense high in the paint, took off to his left, stopped, spun to his right and launched a floater over his defender’s head. The ball bounced around on the rim a few times before dropping through to give the Bulldogs a two-point advantage with 2.5 seconds on the clock. Indiana got a half-court shot off at the buzzer but it missed by a few feet giving Butler an 88:86 upset win over the top-ranked squad in the country.
“We cost ourselves at the end of the game defensively,” coach Tom Crean said after waiting more than an hour to take questions. “They made the plays, there’s no question about that. But we made the mistakes on how we guarded them.”
Butler also was the first team this season to hold an advantage on the Hoosiers on the glass, including 19 offensive rebounds.
Commenting on Barlow’s game-winner, “I thought he just rose up over Hulls and it looked good,” Stevens said. “Don’t use this as an excuse to get down on Indiana. I still think they’re the team to beat in April. Our guys just played really hard and when it really mattered, they figured out a way.”
They also got what Barlow figures was a lucky bounce, “I just figured I would throw it up to the rim,” Barlow said. “If I missed it, I knew they wouldn’t get a shot off. Luckily, it bounced in.”
Bounced in it did, giving Barlow a few minutes of fame and those two points also most likely removed any doubt that he made the right choice to give up the scholarship dollars to lace up the spikes and turn double plays in favor of the blue and white uniform of the Bulldog basketball squad and the tutelage of Butler’s leader Stevens.
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Hope it won’t be only 2 minutes of fame.
Look like kind of success story of the year, but it was only one game!!!!
This is what college basketball is all about! Look already forward to March Madness!