INDIANAPOLIS – A little inside information never hurts.
Gonzaga had the lead, possession and just 3.5 seconds remained, but Butler’s Roosevelt Jones’ ears perked up just before the Zags inbounded the ball in front of their bench.
“I heard their coach talking to (guard David) Stockton and he told (7-foot forward Kelly) Olynyk to post me up, lob it over me,” said Jones, an undersized, 6-foot-4, 227-pound forward. “So I played behind Olynyk and (Stockton) threw it too high. I got the ball and I looked at the clock and there was maybe 3 seconds left so I knew I could make it.”
Jones weaved down the floor, angled to the right side of the lane and drained an off-balance 12-footer just before time expired, giving No. 13 Butler a thrilling 64-63 victory over No. 8 Gonzaga on Saturday and prompting hundreds of the 10,228 at packed Hinkle Fieldhouse to pour onto the court in celebration.
While Jones was being tackled by teammates and students swarmed the floor, officials huddled at the scorer’s table to review the play. After a minute or so, they ruled the shot beat the buzzer.
Jones had the first game-winner of his career. Stockton experienced a replay that he hoped he’d never have to witness again.
“Kelly was going to seal and I was just going to throw it up to him,” said Stockton, who hit a clutch 3-pointer with 3:15 left and had two assists as Gonzaga rallied in the second half. “We’ve done it a million times, he always gets it. The guy (Jones) pushed him pretty good, but that stuff happens.
“I knew (Jones) was going to make it, no doubt. It’s happened to me all the time since I’ve been playing basketball. Every time there’s been an opportunity like that, it’s gone in. I feel like it’s been that way for my whole family actually.”
On this night, Jones was as clutch as Bob by Plump, who hit the game-winning shot from nearly the same spot for Milan High in the 1954 Indiana state championship game, which became the basis for the movie “Hoosiers”. Plump was at Hinkle Fieldhouse for ESPN’s College GameDay on Saturday morning but misfired twice from the same spot on the court.
Jones finished with 20 points, many coming in the same manner as his game-winner.
“He’s strong and kind of attacks off the bounce in an unorthodox way,” GU coach Mark Few said. “He kind of jumps into you, jumps off the wrong foot, but he’s really tough, aggressive and confident. Obviously it was a heck of a shot. I don’t know if I’ve seen a guy that can constantly hit those floaters from 10, 12 feet.”
Jones’ bucket supplied a dramatic ending to a high-quality, fiercely contested game inside one of the college basketball’s loudest venues. Gonzaga (17-2), which had an eight-game winning streak snapped, had the upper hand early, jumping in front by nine. Reserve forward Sam Dower struck for 16 of his season-high 20 points in the first half. His 3-pointer gave GU a 33-32 halftime lead.
Then it was Butler’s turn. Butler (16-2) took the lead 15 seconds into the second half when Jones flipped in a 10-footer. Gonzaga caught up at 50 on Olynyk’s layup off a Stockton feed. Butler, which never led by more than five, scored the next five points, but the Elias Harris connected inside to give the Zags a 59-58 lead with 1:26 left.
Jones and Harris traded baskets and the Zags remained on top 61-60. Butler’s Alex Barlow, a walk-on who hit the game-winner to defeat No. 1 Indiana, drove and made a short bank shot. With GU trailing 62-61, Olynyk was fouled as he went up from close range. He calmly made both free throws with 4.6 seconds left and Gonzaga led 63-62.
Barlow was whistled for traveling with 3.5 seconds left, giving GU the ball. Jones came up with the steal and deciding bucket.
“Guys playing their tails off, guys executing, defenses being switched, teams making adjustments on the fly and then guys making high-level plays,” Few said. “It was all great, except the last 3.5 seconds. Actually the last point-one seconds.”
Harris had 20 points and Olynyk added 14. Kellen Dunham made four of Butler’s eight 3-pointers and scored 14 points.