INDIANAPOLIS – 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.
These guys make you believe, Butler 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. 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.
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.