Butler beat Indiana on the glass -- and on the scoreboard -- for an overtime victory Saturday, 88-86.
INDIANAPOLIS – The best player on the court, no matter how many times Victor Oladipo rolled his eyes, played for unranked Butler, not top-ranked Indiana. His name is Roosevelt Jones. He turned down Illinois State, Indiana State and other low-beam programs to play for Brad Stevens.
The guy who made the winning shot also performed for the Bulldogs. His name is Alex Barlow. He is 5 feet 11.
Barlow does not have a scholarship at Butler. He was not recruited by Illinois State or Indiana State either. Barlow declined offers from Scott Davenport at Bellarmine and Northern Kentucky to play for Stevens because he wants Stevens to make him a coach..
That is how Indiana lost the Number One college basketball ranking Saturday, 88-86, in overtime during the opening game of the Crossroads Classic in front of a standing room only crowd of 19,192 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Beaten by Jones, a 6-4 power forward who looked as unstoppable as Charles Barkley going against Cody Zeller and his Indiana teammates. Stevens is the guy who said Jones was the best player on the court – and the sincerity in the coach's eyes said he wasn't merely trying to kick up a headline. That isn't his style.
Oladipo, Indiana's junior forward, rolled his eyes when he was told of Stevens' assessment. I'll roll Jones' stat line at you, and then you can pick your side of the debate:
Try 16 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and two steals in only 29 minutes. That's more points than Christian Watford, more rebounds than Zeller and more assists than IU point guard Yogi Ferrell.
Beaten by Barlow, a guy who backed Jordan Hulls down the lane and bounced in the game-winner with 2.5 seconds to play. With Zeller sitting next to IU coach Tom Crean on the bench for that possession, Barlow attacked without fear as if he was playing in somebody's driveway.
"You grow up with your hoop in the backyard, just dreaming of playing against the Number One team, last-second shot, shooting it," Barlow said. "Not in my wildest dreams did I think that would be reality."
It's more than reality. It is additional proof of the astounding work Stevens does at Butler. His program showed up in the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Final Fours without any recruits that would make IU, North Carolina or Marquette fans hyperventilate. Now Butler has beaten all three of those programs this season – guaranteeing the Bulldogs (8-2) will return to the tournament after one season on the sidelines. Butler won on a day when it was favored to lose by a dozen.
"We got beat by a really good team," Crean said. "They're really good."
Indiana was outhustled, out-toughed, out-worked and, in the end, outscored. The Hoosiers were fortunate to create overtime, trailing by seven with 2:22 to play and tying the game on a three-pointer by Ferrell in the final seven seconds of regulation.
"It's no surprise to us," Butler center Andrew Smith said.
It should be a surprise -- and an issue -- with Indiana. The Hoosiers thought they had resolved those nagging issues about being a team that can get overpowered on the glass. They have not. Not when Zeller contributes five rebounds and Watford, a senior forward, has three.
You've heard of Camp Cal. Don't be surprised if a cousin of that operation, Camp Crean, opens in Bloomington this week. Nothing makes Crean's blood pressure spike like the absence of toughness in his team.
"I'm excited about getting back to practice," Crean said. "I'm excited about the rebounding drills we're going to do. I'm not sure there are going to be many people who are going to share in that joy with me. But I know that I'll be excited about it because right now that's an area that we've really got to shore up for ourselves."
The smaller Bulldogs outscored Indiana in the paint, 42-32, and feasted on 10 offensive rebounds in the first half. That is when Butler delivered the message the Bulldogs expected to win this game, chasing down offensive rebounds and turning them into 27 second-chance points.
Zeller did not deter Butler. Only a spectacular defensive game from Oladipo, who also scored 18 points, brought Indiana back. It was not enough.
"I don't know," Zeller said. "We've got to figure it out."
The second lingering question is about the Hoosiers' ability to contain dribblers on the perimeter. The question will linger into Big Ten play. In the second half, Butler made 15 of 29 shots.
It got worse in overtime. With three of its top six players fouled out, Butler made five of seven shots in the extra minutes, including a pair of three-pointers that erased an 84-80 Indiana lead. The more deserving team won.
"Don't use this as an excuse to get down on Indiana," Stevens said. "I still think they're a team to beat through April."