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 2 1/2 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.''
All Roosevelt Jones wanted to do Saturday night was make a play.
'Twice as Nice'
When it comes to the 3A State Tournament and Oklahoma City, the Verdigris High School basketball teams are a household name.
Head coaches Randy Upshaw and Mike Buntin lead their programs back to the 'Capitol City' this week for a chance to hoist the coveted 3A state championship on Saturday night at the Big House.
Cards fly into 3A State Tournament
Verdigris junior guard Cade Upshaw lives for March Madness.
The 5-foot-10 sharp-shooter overcame a sluggish performance in a loss to Tahlequah Sequoyah to bounce back for a 20-point outing in the Cardinals’ 72-42 win over Antlers Saturday evening in the Class 3A Area Tournament at Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Vinita eliminates Inola
Vinita used an 18-point third quarter — highlighted by the sophomore leadership of Carsyn Spurgeon — and converted 21-of-34 free throws to notch a 61-55 win over the Inola Lady Longhorns Saturday night in the Class 4A Area Tournament.
‘Soaring to State’
In the hometown of Carrie Underwood, Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell proved to be Oklahoma’s ‘Basketball Idol’ in Class 3A Girls Basketball.
The 5-foot-8 floor general put the No. 4-ranked Lady Cardinals on her shoulders and carried Verdigris back to the the state tournament with the 53-40 win over No. 5 Tahlequah Sequoyah Friday night in the Area Championship at the Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Stilwell advances to State
A jam-packed, vocal crowd — aided by the control of several Claremore Police officers — witnessed Stilwell’s come-from-behind 57-51 win over Harrah Saturday night in the must-win game of the Class 4A Area Tournament at the Claremore High School Gymnasium.
SOFTBALL: Arkansas cruises past Miss. Valley State
The University of Arkansas softball team completed an undefeated run through the Razorback Invitational Sunday afternoon win with a 13-5 victory over Mississippi Valley State at Bogle Park.
AAC WOMEN'S BB TOURNEY: No. 1 UConn routs No. 3 Louisville for title
New league, same result. It's another championship for UConn.
Breanna Stewart scored 20 points and top-ranked Connecticut beat No. 3 Louisville 72-52 on Monday night to win the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament.
BIG 12 WOMEN'S BB TOURNEY: Sims leads Baylor to championship
Nothing was going to stop Odyssey Sims.
Not her early foul trouble, West Virginia's suffocating defense or the left ankle injury she suffered less than t wo minutes into the Big 12 championship game.
Sims, the Big 12 player of the year, bounced back and scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half to help No. 9 Baylor defeat No. 7 West Virginia 74-71 Monday night and earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. It was Sims' fourth championship in four years.
BIG 12 WOMEN'S BB: Kansas State fires coach Deb Patterson
Kansas State has fired women's basketball coach Deb Patterson, announcing the move two days after an opening-round loss in the Big 12 tournament.
NCAA MEN'S BB: Florida, Wichita State stay 1-2 in AP poll
Florida, which finished an unbeaten season in the Southeastern Conference, and Wichita State, which completed an undefeated regular season, are the top two teams in the AP college basketball poll for the third straight week.
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