Rapid Reaction: Walk-On Lifts Butler Past No. 1 Indiana in Overtime

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Twitter recap: Zeller, Watford quiet. Jones shines, but fouls out late. Top 3 Butler defenders DQed in all. Yogi sends game to OT, BU walk-on wins it there

Unlikely hero. Alex Barlow fielded multiple Division-1 scholarship offers to play baseball, but passed on the hardball for the opportunity to play on the hardwood at Butler as a walk-on. The trade-off has paid off for both Barlow and the Bulldogs already. A former two-sport star in high school and walk-on at Butler last season, Barlow nailed two shots in overtime, including a game-winning runner with 2.5 seconds remaining, to spark the biggest upset of the early season. Brad Stevens has a knack for turning overlooked, blue-collar players into impact performers. His most recent success story, however, is a distinguished accomplishment on its own. Barlow, an aspiring basketball coach himself, turned down a promising baseball career just to become the latest example of Stevens’ coaching magic.

Dec 15 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Butler Bulldogs guard Alex Barlow (3) makes the game winning shot against Indiana Hoosiers guard Jordan Hulls (1) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Butler defeats Indiana in overtime 88-86. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Winning undermanned. Beating Indiana on a neutral floor alone is a superlative feat by itself, but Butler did even more. The Bulldogs took down No. 1 without their three best defenders down the stretch. Roosevelt Jones, the team’s primary ball-handler in late-game situations and a gnat defending Christian Watford all afternoon, fouled out with 2:03 to play. Andrew Smith, who did a commendable job on defense himself smothering Cody Zeller, checked out of the game with his fifth foul all but 17 seconds later. Erik Fromm fouled out early in the overtime session after a productive afternoon not only on the boards—where he’s always a pest—but in the scoring column (10 points, 4-7 FG) as well. Having to turn to a walk-on in the game’s final minutes while facing a four-point deficit against the top-ranked team in the land—an opponent riding all the momentum, no less—is a tall task few teams would even have the stomach to attempt. Butler is one of them. The Bulldogs may have grown up in Maui, but they evolved on Saturday in Indianapolis.

Keeping up with the Joneses. When Rotnei Clarke moves on at the end of the season, Butler won’t be without a leader. Roosevelt Jones, hardly a stat-sheet stuffer, is the quintessential floor leader in line to lead the Bulldogs over the next two-and-a-half years. He handles the ball at the end of games, allowing Clarke to play his natural off-ball guard spot, and locks down on the opponent’s top perimeter player. That was bad news for Christian Watford on Saturday. Jones is far from being an athletic specimen and his perimeter game needs a facelift, but the sophomore forward has sneaky quickness and a special flair for creating his own shot. He’s a tough-minded player, an underrated passer and beast on the boards—the exact type of player on whom Brad Stevens has leaned over the last several years to become one of the game’s coaching greats.

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