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Ben Smith

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Bulldogs’ walk-on makes his moment

– So now there’s a new refrain in Hoosierville, unlikely but fitting given everything the Butler Bulldogs have been and are and likely will always be under Brad Stevens’ steady hand. Now there’s a new refrain, and it goes like this:

Alex Barlow For The Win.

That would be 5-foot-11, 187-pound sophomore Alex Barlow.

That would be Alex Barlow from Springboro, Ohio, just south of Dayton Wright Brothers Airport.

That would be Alex Barlow the walk-on, the 1.5 points-per-game scorer, the go-to guy for as huge a moment as you’re going to get in college buckets in December, three months before the Madness sets in, as Butler defeated No. 1 Indiana 88-86 in the Crossroads Classic.

A year ago it was Watford For The Win as Indiana took down No. 1 Kentucky, but this time it was Indiana who was No. 1 and Barlow doing the taking down. That was him down there at the end of overtime Saturday, spinning in the lane, flipping up a little driveway jump hook, watching it jitter on the iron briefly and then drop through.

There were 2.5 seconds left, and that was the moment. That was the tranquilizer dart that left numb a Banker’s Life Fieldhouse awash in red, and sent Indiana coach Tom Crean into hiding for the next hour.

Finally he appeared to confirm what we all should know by now.

“I think they’ve got a good team,” he said. “It’s really easy to see it like Chaminade vs. Virginia, but it wasn’t that. They’re really good.”

This is a familiar refrain by now with Butler. In the last four years the Bulldogs have reached the NCAA championship game twice and would have won it in 2010 had the laws of physics been kinder to Gordon Hayward’s final prayer from beyond midcourt. In the time since, two things have become clear: This isn’t your father’s mid-major, and Stevens might just be the best coach in the nation.

Saturday certainly didn’t hurt either perception.

“We already know how good we are and how good we can be,” said Roosevelt Jones, who gashed Indiana for 16 points, nine above his average, before going to the bench with five fouls. “I knew our team would pull it out because we have great players on the court.”

Or, like Barlow, players unwilling to blink when the situation virtually demands blinking. Down four with 2:12 to play, with Jones on the bench and Andrew Smith on the bench and Erik Fromm on the bench, the Bulldogs got a bucket off a three from Rotnei Clarke, and another three from Chase Stigall, who missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation. The Bulldogs never trailed again.

“Such a gutty effort by our guys,” Stevens said. “Chase has had his moment obviously throughout the course of his career, but how much guts does it take (after missing at the end of regulation)?”

And how much guts did it take for Barlow, who plays just 12.4 minutes per game, to stare down the Moment and make it his?

“I was looking for options and they weren’t open,” he said. “The floater is a shot that I work on a lot, and I happened to get a lucky bounce. It was a good feeling.”

The rest was the Bulldogs going harder to the glass than Indiana, outrebounding the Hoosiers 40-38 and limiting Cody Zeller to five boards, and knocking down the threes (11 of them), and going right at the Hoosiers as hard as Indiana went at them.

“We didn’t play well enough to win,” Crean said. “We just didn’t.”

Butler, on the other hand, did. Surprise, surprise.

“Don’t use this as an excuse to get down on Indiana,” Stevens said. “I still think they’re a team to beat in April. Our guys just played really hard, and it really mattered, and they figured out a way.”

For the win.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.