Sunday, January 20, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS — All Roosevelt Jones wanted to do Saturday night was make a play.
He wound up stealing the ball and a victory.
The sophomore forward looped around Gonzaga’s 7-foot center, stole an overthrown inbounds pass with 3.5 seconds left, took a peek at the clock and drove from midcourt into the lane for a buzzer-beating floater that gave No. 13 Butler a 64-63 victory over No. 8 Gonzaga.
It was just one more play in Butler’s ever-expanding guide on how to make the improbable victories possible.
“These guys make you believe,” coach Brad Stevens said. “The way they play the game, how hard they play the game, they just make you believe.”
Why not, given what Butler (16-2, 3-0 Atlantic 10) already has achieved this season.
The Bulldogs have won 13 straight games, including the last two without their leading scorer, Rotnei Clarke. With a win over No. 9 North Carolina in November, a win over No. 1 Indiana in December and now over No. 8 Gonzaga in January, Butler has beaten three top 10 teams in one season for the first time.
The latest came on a night when the power conferences ceded center stage to the two biggest little schools in college basketball.
And, of course, it came in the same Hinkle Fieldhouse where Oscar Robertson won two state titles and led his school to the first undefeated season in Indiana high school basketball, where Bobby Plump delivered the winner in Milan’s miraculous 1954 state title run that later became the plot for the movie “Hoosiers,” and in a venue that had never before hosted a game between two top 15 college teams.
This game had all the trimmings, from Plump’s return to the court to a rare game-ending rushing of the floor by Butler’s students. Much to Jones’ surprise, he was the reason for the postgame celebration.