No. 13 Butler steals 64-63 win over No. 8 Gonzaga
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.
“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 7-foot center Kelly 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 Conference) didn’t even bother to stick around for the replay review. The Zags knew it was good.
“He’s just really, really tough. He’s aggressive and he’s confident and that’s a heck of a shot,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after watching an eight-game winning streak end. “I’ve never consistently seen anyone make so many floaters from 10 to 12 feet.”
Butler got 14 points from freshman Kellen Dunham and eight from Khyle Marshall.
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.
The numbers paled in comparison to what happened in what was being billed as the best non-power conference game of the season.
Organizers did it up right.
In the morning, Plump missed both of the shots he took from the same spot in the same gym where he made the winning shot in the 1954 Indiana high school state tourney.
Some fans rekindled memories of past eras by wearing jerseys bearing the names of former Butler players such as Matt Howard and Duane Lightfoot. Every seat was filled 10 minutes before tip-off, and the students who were standing in line more than 2½ hours before the game’s scheduled start time literally ran into the fieldhouse to find a precious seat behind one of the baskets.
What they really wanted to see was Clarke in his game-day attire instead of street clothes as he battles back from a severely sprained neck.
The consolation prize wasn’t bad: An instant classic.
Butler trailed 33-32 at halftime but came out of the locker room and scored the first five points to take the lead. The Bulldogs didn’t trail again until Harris’ layup made it 59-58 with 1:26 left.
Jones answered 19 seconds later with his own layup to give the Bulldogs the lead, starting a sequence of four straight lead changes.
When Olynyk made two free throws to give the Zags a 63-62 lead and Barlow turned the ball over, it looked as though that would be the last lead change of the night.
But Jones responded by stealing the ball and the game.
“I just made a basketball play,” he said. “I heard the coach say lob and I just made a basketball play.”
No. 4 KANSAS 64, TEXAS 59
AUSTIN, Texas — Ben McLemore scored 16 points and Kansas stormed back from a late double-digit deficit for its 15th straight win.
Jeff Withey added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Jayhawks (16-1, 4-0 Big 12), who trailed by 11 points in the second half before McLemore steered a rally that prevented the reeling Longhorns (8-9, 0-4) from a badly needed victory in this troubled season.
Travis Releford added 12 points for Kansas.
Sheldon McClennan led the Longhorns with 18 points. Texas has lost four straight, its longest losing streak since coach Rick Barnes’ first season in 1998-99.
No. 7 ARIZONA 71, ARIZONA STATE 54
TEMPE, Ariz. — Mark Lyons scored 24 points and Nick Johnson added 19 as Arizona pulled away in the second half.
Arizona (16-1, 4-1 Pac-12) went on the decisive run after Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson picked up his fourth foul midway through the second half. Solomon Hill added 13 points for the Wildcats, who scored 18 points off turnovers and outscored the Sun Devils by 14 inside.
Arizona State (14-4, 3-2) never recovered after Arizona’s run, thanks to 17 turnovers and a quiet game by second-leading scorer Carrick Felix, who had 5 points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Carson had 22 points and four assists, and Evan Gordon added 14 points for the Sun Devils.
No. 10 FLORIDA 83, No. 17 MISSOURI 52
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Scottie Wilbekin had 13 points and 10 assists, his first career double-double, for Florida.
The victory was coach Billy Donovan’s 400th with the Gators, making him the third coach in Southeastern Conference history to accomplish that feat with the same school. He joined Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp and LSU’s Dale Brown in the 400-win club.
Erik Murphy scored 15 points despite playing with a broken finger for the Gators (14-2, 4-0 SEC), who won their sixth straight, and Kenny Boynton added 14.
Wilbekin did a strong defensive job on Missouri point guard Phil Pressey, who finished with two points on 1-of-7 shooting with 10 turnovers and six assists.
Jabari Brown led the Tigers (13-4, 2-2) with 16 points.
No. 18 MICHIGAN STATE 59, No. 11 OHIO STATE 56
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Keith Appling made two free throws with 7.9 seconds left and finished with 15 points for Michigan State.
The Buckeyes had a chance to potentially tie the game in the closing seconds, but Shannon Scott didn’t come close on a running 3-point attempt.
Deshaun Thomas scored a career Big Ten-high 28 points, including six 3-pointers.
The Spartans (16-3, 5-1 Big Ten) have won five straight conference games.
Ohio State (13-4, 3-2) was playing for the first time since handing Michigan its only loss last Sunday.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. had six points on 2-of-7 shooting as the Buckeyes’ second-leading scorer.
Michigan State’s Adreian Payne had 14 points and Branden Dawson had nine points and 10 rebounds.
WICHITA STATE 67, No. 12 CREIGHTON 64
WICHITA, Kan. — Carl Hall had 17 points and 13 rebounds and Malcolm Armstead hit two key free throws in the closing seconds for Wichita State.
Cleanthony Early added 13 points and Demetric Williams had 10 for the Shockers (17-2, 6-1 Missouri Valley Conference), who pushed their home-court winning streak to 17 games.
Doug McDermott finished with 25 points for the Bluejays (17-2, 6-1), but he never got the ball with the game on the line. Instead, Ethan Wragge misfired on a potential tying 3 with 6 seconds left, and then had another chance when Hall missed two free throws at the other end.
This time, Wragge’s shot from the top of the key clanked off the back of the rim.
Grant Gibbs finished with 14 points for the Bluejays, who trailed almost the entire way while having their 11-game winning streak snapped. Creighton hadn’t lost since Nov. 28.
WYOMING 58, No. 15 SAN DIEGO STATE 45
LARAMIE, Wyo. — Leonard Washington had 14 points and 14 rebounds to help Wyoming beat a cold shooting San Diego State.
Larry Nance Jr. added 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Derrious Gilmore had 13 points for the Cowboys (15-2, 2-2 Mountain West).
Wyoming’s win snapped a five-game losing streak to the Aztecs.
SDSU (14-4, 2-2) lost its second game in a row, the first time this season the Aztecs have lost back-to-back games. SDSU fell to UNLV on Wednesday.
Jamaal Franklin led SDSU with 13 points — 5 points below his season average.
The Aztecs, who entered the game averaging 72 points, struggled from the field Saturday night. They hit just 29 percent (17-of-59), making just 2-of-18 3-point attempts.
No. 16 KANSAS STATE 69, OKLAHOMA 60
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Rodney McGruder scored 20 points and Will Spradling added 15 for Kansas State.
Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye both scored 12 points for Oklahoma.
The Sooners (12-4, 3-1) kept pace with the Wildcats most of the way thanks to snagging 36 rebounds to Kansas State’s 24. That would not be enough to counteract the damage done by turnovers; Oklahoma gave the ball away 16 times.
Angel Rodriguez helped seal the deal in the closing minutes with a slashing layup in the paint and a 3 that put Kansas State (15-2, 4-0) up 61-52 with 2:25 left. Rodriguez finished with 12 points and nine assists.
No. 20 NOTRE DAME 69, RUTGERS 66
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jack Cooley had 19 points, 10 rebounds and blocked a shot with 2 seconds left to help No. 20 Notre Dame hang on for a win over Rutgers, ending a two-game losing streak for the Fighting Irish.
Rutgers used a 6-1 run late to close to 67-66 when Eli Carter scored on a layup with 7 seconds left then forced a held ball on Eric Atkins two seconds later. Carter drove inside for the layup, but Cooley blocked the shot. Atkins then made a pair of free throws for the Irish (15-3, 3-2 Big East).
Myles Mack 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed as the Scarlet Knights (14-4, 3-3) lost for the ninth straight time at Notre Dame.
Pat Connaughton made four 3-pointers and added 17 points, Atkins had 14 and Jerian Grant had 10 assists. Cooley, who didn’t play the final 11 minutes in a loss at St. John’s on Tuesday and struggled at times against UConn, came up big when the Irish needed him.
Carter led Rutgers with 20 points and Mack had 12 and Rutgers got 18 points from its bench.
No. 21 OREGON 76, No. 24 UCLA 67
LOS ANGELES — Tony Woods scored 18 points and Oregon pulled away over the final 6 1-2 minutes to improve to 5-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time in 39 years.
Dominic Artis added 14 points, and Arsaian Kezemi had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Ducks (16-2, 5-0 Pac-12), who snapped the Bruins’ 10-game winning streak, including eight straight victories at home.
UCLA (15-4, 5-1) led by three points at halftime after shooting 55 percent. They led by five early in the second half and tied the game at 52-all before the Ducks’ defense stepped up and sent the Bruins’ shooting into a tailspin.
Travis Wear scored 17 points to lead the Bruins, whose winning streak equaled their longest since 2008-09. Norman Powell added 11 points starting in place of Shabazz Muhammad, who finished with 10 points, as did Kyle Anderson.
No. 22 VCU 90, DUQUESNE 63
PITTSBURGH — Rob Brandenberg scored 22 points and VCU dominated in winning its 13th consecutive game, beating Duquesne.
The Rams’ Treveon Graham had 17 of his 20 points in the first half, when VCU (16-3, 4-0 Atlantic 10) used a 26-2 run to seize control. It would cruise to extend what is the nation’s second-longest active winning streak.
VCU coach Shaka Smart became the second-youngest coach to reach 100 career victories. The 35-year-old needed 131 games, 30th-fewest in NCAA history. Only 11 other coaches reached 100 wins in their first four seasons, including Butler’s Brad Stevens. He was 34 when he won his 100th game.
Derrick Colter had 15 points to lead the Dukes (7-11, 0-4), who have lost six straight.
CINCINNATI 71, No. 25 MARQUETTE 69, OT
CINCINNATI — Sean Kilpatrick scored seven of his career-high 36 points in overtime Saturday night, and Cincinnati blew a 16-point lead before rallying to a victory over Marquette, ending the Bearcats’ streak of three straight home losses.
Cincinnati (16-3, 4-2 Big East) pulled it out without point guard Cashmere Wright, who sprained his right knee during a 75-70 win at DePaul on Tuesday night. Without him, the Bearcats depended almost solely on Kilpatrick for points.
His driving layup with 4.3 seconds left in overtime broke the final tie. Junior Cadougan missed a driving jumper before the buzzer.
Marquette (13-4, 4-1) managed only 13 points in the first half and never led until overtime. The Golden Eagles’ loss leaves No. 6 Syracuse as the only team still unbeaten in Big East play at 5-0. The Orange knocked off No. 1 Louisville 70-68 earlier Saturday.
Vander Blue led Marquette with 19 points.
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