Butler gets last bite in battle of Bulldogs

The Associated PressJanuary 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 Kelly Olynyk, 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 the No. 13 Butler Bulldogs a 64-63 victory over the No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs.

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,” Butler 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 Conference) already has achieved this season.

The Bulldogs have won 13 consecutive games, including the past 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.

“I never did it in my life,” Jones said when asked about the last time he hit a buzzer-beating shot.

The 6-foot-4 sophomore finished with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists. And after Alex Barlow, who hit the winning shot to upset the Hoosiers, was called for traveling with 3.5 seconds left, Jones made the perfect read when Gonzaga point guard David Stockton, the son of NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton, threw the inbounds pass over the head of Olynyk.

Jones, expecting a lob, played it like an NFL cornerback and moved behind Olynyk.

That put Jones in better position to catch the ball than the Gonzaga center.

Then, with fans in the sold-out arena rising and their arms flailing, Jones raced into the lane where he threw up a mid-range shot that went through the net and set off another wild celebration.

Gonzaga (17-2, 4-0 West Coast) didn’t even bother to stick around for the replay review. The Zags knew it was good.

“He’s aggressive and he’s confident and that’s a heck of a shot,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

The Zags were led by Elias Harris and Sam Dower, who each scored 20.

Olynyk, the West Coast Conference’s top scorer, finished with 14 points and seven rebounds despite spending most of the second half in foul trouble.

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