INDIANAPOLIS -- The last time we saw the No. 1-ranked Hoosiers in the national broadcast spotlight, they were thrashing North Carolina, looking every bit the national title favorite they were predicted to be, and talking a little bit of trash along the way.
Saturday would not be so easy.
Turning point: Indiana led throughout the first half and much of the second, and it always seemed likely to pull away at any time -- when the Hoosiers get out and run, and make a few buckets in a row, they can put you away in a hurry.
But Butler never let that happen. It stayed in the game and bided its time, overcoming its turnovers and lack of pretty offense with offensive rebounding, timely 3-pointers and tricky inbounds plays. In the second half, its opportunity came. The Hoosiers went into a scoring drought -- they played almost 10 minutes without a field goal -- and Butler got a 3-pointer from Kellen Dunham, a wide-open 3-pointer from Chase Stigall, some impressive physical play from Andrew Smith, and, by the 4:38 mark, the Bulldogs had a bona fide lead, 66-59.
IU kept pushing but kept flailing -- Remy Abell closed the lead with a big 3-point play, but Victor Oladipo missed an open layup, and Butler forward Roosevelt Jones put Butler back up seven points, 71-64, when he created an open bucket for Smith. At the 2:03 mark, Butler controlled the game.
The foul trouble that had plagued the Bulldogs all game caught up to them. Jones fouled out. Smith soon followed, and Will Sheehey knocked down two free throws to cut the lead to 3.
With just 27 seconds left, Oladipo created a steal on the press, then finished with a spinning layup to cut Butler's lead to one. With the shot clock off, the Hoosiers fouled Alex Barlow with 16.6 seconds remaining. Barlow made both. IU needed a 3. And the Hoosiers got it -- from one of the least likely options, point guard Yogi Ferrell. Tie score.
It was every bit as crazy as it sounds. And that was just regulation.
The Bulldogs and Hoosiers traded baskets throughout the first two-and-a-half minutes of OT, and then more foul trouble for Butler: Forward Erick Fromm committed his fifth and had to go sit next to Jones and Smith. Indiana opened a four-point lead; Butler was overmatched; and it looked like the game was done.
Nope. Wrong. Clarke, cold-blooded as ever, nailed another deep 3. IU left Stigall wide open at the top of the key -- horrible mistake -- and Butler took a sudden 86-84 lead.
Cody Zeller tied the score in simple fashion coming out of a timeout -- he caught the ball, got to the rim and scored, a rare sight during his off game Saturday -- and, at 86-86, Butler got the final inbounds with 19.3 seconds left.
And once more, Butler coach Brad Stevens had something up his sleeve. The Bulldogs spread the floor, and guard Alex Barlow -- Alex Barlow! -- drove on Hulls, took a soft jump hook and … watched it drop in with 2.2 seconds left. Yep. That happened.
It was an incredible zig of a decision by Stevens, and a great play by Barlow, and it sealed the upset at the end of a remarkable game and an even better performance by the Bulldogs.
Key player(s): Barlow. There were better performances by Butler -- Clarke had 19 and huge shots; Jones and Smith were massive before they fouled out -- but it's hard to give the nod to anyone other than Barlow, whose otherwise invisibly solid performance ended with the shot of the season thus far.
Key stat: Offensive rebounding. Butler's entire performance relied on the offensive glass. The Bulldogs shot just a so-so 47.8 percent from the field, and committed 16 turnovers, but their ability to chase down half of all available misses kept them in the game throughout. (They had 14 points on putbacks in the first half alone.)
What’s next: After a hearty weeklong celebration, Butler will host Evansville next Saturday. Indiana will lick its wounds and rebuild confidence with three straight home guarantee games before the start of Big Ten play in January.