Kelan Martin scored 28 points and No. 18 Butler used a 10-0 run to close the first half and open up a 42-28 lead as the Bulldogs held on to beat No. 9 Indiana, 83-78.
Kamar Baldwin and Andrew Chrabacsz both chipped in with 14 points.
The Hoosiers missed all eight of their threes in the first half, which was one of the biggest reasons that they found themselves in a 14-point hole heading into the final 20 minutes. The Hoosiers did make a run down the stretch, however, and cut Butler lead to just two points with less than a minute left. But Thomas Bryant fell asleep on an in-bounds pass with 16 seconds left, forgetting to cover Tyler Wideman, whose dunk more or less sealed this one.
James Blackmon Jr. had 26 points to lead the way for the Hoosiers while Thomas Bryant had 15 points.
Here are the three things I took away from this game:
1. It’s time to take Butler seriously: Let me clarify this before Butler fans flood my twitter mentions: Yes, we already should have known this team was good. They won at Utah. They beat No. 25 Cincinnati. They beat No. 19 Arizona. They have wins over Northwestern and Vanderbilt. They’re good.
But until today, I don’t think we realized just how good they are. Because Indiana is, without question, the best team the Bulldogs have beaten. The win wasn’t some fluke, either. This wasn’t a situation where Butler scored a flurry of points in the final minutes or got lucky because Indiana was in foul trouble or hit a half-court buzzer-beater to win. The Bulldogs took a lead early and closed the first half on a run that put them up 14 at the break. This was a game where Kelan Martin had 28 points and was, at least for today, the best player on the floor. This was a game where Butler had an answer every time Indiana made their run.
When James Blackmon Jr. hit a three to cut the lead to four with four minutes left, the Bulldogs scored the next four points. When Blackmon hit another three to cut the lead to two with 30 seconds left, Butler got a dunk on a perfectly executed out of bounds play.
This Butler team isn’t just good, they’re a team that will have a shot at getting to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament and, in all likelihood, will make some noise in the Big East title race.
2. No team in the country has as big of a gap between their ceiling and their floor as Indiana: When the Hoosiers are at their best, they can beat anyone in the country. Ask Kansas. Ask North Carolina. When their threes are dropping and they’re active and intense on the defensive end of the floor, the Hoosiers are really, really dangerous.
But that’s not always the team that shows up.
In the first half.
Indiana is going to struggle against teams that are able to muck things up on them. When they can’t get out in transition, they’re going to struggle to score. When they can’t get open three-point looks, they’re going to be a limited offensive team. They just don’t have a go-to guy that can get them a bucket against a set defense. It looked like it was going to be Blackmon early in the season, but Blackmon has been inconsistent in that role. He can score in transition and he can get hot and bang three or four threes in a row, but he’s not a guy that you can give the rock to when you need to end a run or when the shot clock is running out.
And that’s what makes these Hoosiers beatable.
3. It’s time to give Tyler Lewis some love: The former McDonald’s All-American left N.C. State after two seasons of struggling to get starters’ minutes. He sat out a year before becoming eligible at Butler and … struggled to get starters’ minutes. This season, however, Lewis is averaging 25 minutes and he’s one of the most valuable players on the floor for Chris Holtmann. He’s averaging 5.2 assists, he doesn’t turn the rock over and he’s a quintessential “pure point guard”, the kind of guy that makes his teammates better without needing to show up in the box score.