Butler guard Alex Barlow, center, is carried by forward Kameron Woods, left, and center Andrew Smith after Butler defeated No. 1 Indiana 88-86 in overtime in an NCAA college basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. Barlow hit the game-winning shot. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
For more coverage of the Crossroads Classic, see pages 52-53.
Updated: January 17, 2013 6:52AM
INDIANAPOLIS — Are you kidding me, Butler? Nah, the Bulldogs never do. They just play hard. They play physical. They play tough.
And they expect to beat the No. 1 ranked team in the country, like they did Saturday.
It wouldn’t be fair to say Butler left Indiana heartbroken and defeated.
They just irritated the Hoosiers, banged on them as hard as they got banged and made just as many big plays — actually one more — than the No. 1 team in the country did, and beat them. Read that again and again and again. They beat them. They beat them. They beat them in a game that felt like it was for a berth in the Sweet 16.
“Such a gutty effort by our guys,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said.
None was bigger or more classic than the runner in the lane by Alex Barlow, a 5-11 walk-on guard who didn’t score a point in the first half.
The walk-on status is deceiving. He starts. He plays like a McDonald’s All-American. He doesn’t have five-star talent but he makes up for it with an oversized heart and a relentless, unforgiving spirit — just like the whole Bulldogs team. Maybe a scholarship will be in the mail after Barlow sliced around several trees inside and threw up the little roller.
It was a perfect moment — one that he’ll want to freeze in time. The ball hung around the rim for a split second, took a couple of rolls and then plopped through with 2.5 seconds left.
There were so many spectacular plays — from Yogi Ferrell’s game-tying 3-pointer with six seconds left in regulation to the consecutive 3-pointers in overtime by Rotnei Clark and Chase Stigall that erased a four-point Indiana lead — that you could write a book.
But Barlow’s was just unbelievable. Andrew Smith, Butler’s big man who had done yeoman’s work to hold Cody Zeller to 18 points and five rebounds, had fouled out. So had Roosevelt Jones, the Bulldogs’ 6-4 forward who Stevens called the best player on the floor. He finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
The last play had to go to Clark. He was bodying up all afternoon to Hoosiers defenders when he wasn’t going for the quick release 3-pointer. It just had to. That’s what I figured.
I was wrong.
Barlow dribbled and dribbled until he found just enough space in the lane to get that shot up. He was looking for options. None were there. He had to make a move. Didn’t matter if he was a walk-on. Didn’t matter that he didn’t play much last year. Didn’t matter that this was Indiana, the best team in the country and that Banker’s Fieldhouse was packed with fans dressed in red.
“I saw the shot clock get to six and I decided to make a play,” he said. “I like to get to my right hand so I make a little spin move. The floater is a shot I work on a lot and I happened to get a lucky bounce. It was a good feeling.”
It was a feeling that he had dreamed of hundreds of time while shooting baskets in his backyard in Springboro, Ohio, his hometown.
It was something he thought would never happen. Make the winning shot against the No. 1 team in the country.
“It’s a dream,” he said. “It’s not something you think will become reality.”
After it was over, the Butler fans stayed in their seats but cheered wildly. No storming the court.
Stevens rushed off the court and gave the crowd a double fist pump.
The Bulldogs expect to beat the best teams in the country and they’d like everyone else to start expecting it, too.
Stevens curtly brushed aside a question about beating No. 1, saying, “We don’t pay much attention to rankings.”
He’s happy about being 8-2 with wins over North Carolina and now IU. That’s it though. Tomorrow is another day and if they have to play the Hoosiers again, they will be disappointed if they lose. No kidding.