That would be the cleaned up version of what most us said when Roosevelt Jones stole the ball, drove the length of the floor, and hit the shot to win the game. As if that script wasn’t enough, the ball left Rose’s hand with one-tenth of a second to play.
“Hinkle magic,” Brad Stevens said immediately after the game. How about Butler’s second claim to playing in the game of the year to this point?
The lead changed six times in the final 86 seconds. It appeared that Alex Barlow would snare his second game winner in five weeks with 20 seconds to play. Then he nearly turned into the goat by traveling with 3.5 seconds to play. But leave it to Butler’s best player on the floor in Rotnei Clarke’s absence in Jones to steal the show and end one of the best days in Bulldog basketball history with an exclamation point.
It’s worth noting that if Butler had not have turned the ball over, Jones would not have been on the floor to attempt the game winner. After Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk made both free throws with 4.6 seconds left to play, Butler elected to pull Jones from the lineup to insert Emerson Kampen. Kampen is Butler’s designated player to throw the baseball pass the length of the floor. Other than Kampen, Stevens elected to have four three-point shooters on the floor. Because of the violation, Jones re-enters, guards Olynyk, and history is made yet again at Hinkle.
It’s also very fitting that Butler was honoring its first NCAA Sweet 16 squad from 2003 at the game. The only other moment that I thought last night could compare to in the building was Avery Sheets’ game winning three to beat UW-Milwaukee to win the Horizon League crown in the final game of the ’03 regular season. It was a packed house on that Saturday afternoon as well, with a couple of major differences. It was two NCAA tournament teams, but not top 15-ranked teams on that day. And ESPN’s College Gameday wasn’t their drawing national attention on that day 10 years ago, either.
And maybe we all should have seen this coming. When a Butler student in Kevin Schwartz sinks a half court shot on the first try to win $18,000 in scholarship money, maybe its simply going to be your day.
Two comments from ESPN’s Jay Bilas before and after the game are worth repeating. “My head tells me Gonzaga, but something about being in here (referring to Hinkle) tells me to go with Butler.” And after the game: “You had better kill Butler if you want to beat them.” That would be referring to this team’s ability to win late.
ANOTHER MAGIC MOMENT FOR BULLDOGS
The Bulldogs have already had three moments this year that most programs enjoy over the course of a decade, not two months. Rotnei Clarke’s season-changing runner to beat Marquette in Maui, Alex Barlow’s spin and win against Indiana, and now Jones’ still and finish against the Zags. This team doesn’t have confidence, they have fate and destiny. This season has already been magical, and it’s only about half over.
And while Butler fans will talk about this game and the entire events of the day for decades, Butler must flip the script quickly to prepare for the next big challenge. They dive back into road A-10 play against LaSalle on Wednesday. They likely will do so again without Clarke, who just resumed shooting yesterday. I would think that the most optimistic of recovery plans could have him back for Temple on Saturday, but even that is questionable at best.
So the Bulldogs will need more nights like 20 points, five boards, and four assists from Jones. Or Barlow’s four rebounds and six assists. Let’s give a tip of the cap to Kellen Dunham and Chase Stigall, who combined to make six threes, allowing Butler to keep spreading the floor the way Clarke normally would. It’s not been ‘next man up,’ it’s been an entire team up.
How long can they keep it up is the only question remaining. They still need Clarke back sooner rather than later, but at this point, does anything seem impossible for team? The bar is set pretty high these days around Hinkle, having players still on the roster who have played in multiple national championship games. But this team could be penning the most exciting season in Butler basketball history.
And if the first half of the book has had this many plot twists, just imagine what might happen next.