The No.1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers went into Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday with hopes of taking down the Butler Bulldogs and proving their dominance as the state of Indiana’s top team.
Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, Butler had other plans.
The Bulldogs came out of the gate strong, showing the Hoosiers that they weren’t going to be taken lightly despite having already lost two games this season.
Feeding off of the home crowd, Butler was able to make an uncomfortable environment for Indiana, forcing them to play their style of basketball.
The Hoosiers led most of the first half and entered halftime with just a 37-33 lead.
The two teams traded buckets throughout the second half, and the Hoosiers watched their seven-point lead with 8:42 left slowly shrink before their eyes.
As the second half came to a close, it looked as if the Hoosiers were going to roll over and concede defeat when trailing by seven with 2:03 left, but they continued to fight.
After an exchange of fouls, the Hoosiers were able to cut the Butler lead to one point following a Victor Oladipo steal and layup. Following two free throws by walk-on guard Alex Barlow of Butler, the Hoosiers were down three with just 17 seconds to go.
Indiana advanced the ball upcourt and tied the game up at 76 with a three-pointer from freshman Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell with 10 seconds left. Chase Stigall of Butler missed a three-pointer as time ran out, forcing overtime.
Riding the momentum from the end of the second half, the Hoosiers entered overtime confident and motivated.
Again for the Hoosiers, Butler had other plans, shooting lights out from beyond the arc in overtime to take out the No.1 Hoosiers, 88-86. The loss has left many Indiana fans concerned.
Fortunately for the Hoosier faithful, this is not a time to panic.
Don’t let Butler’s two losses and unranked status fool you; this team is no joke. Butler’s two losses were to 7-2 Xavier and an undefeated Illinois team, and they also took out the North Carolina Tar Heels just one week before Indiana did.
Following this win, the Butler Bulldogs will likely slide into the Top 25.
As for the Hoosiers, this could be a blessing in disguise.
Yes, the thought of being No.1 and being undefeated is as good as it gets, but getting a loss out of the way early takes the target off of the Hoosiers, who will likely remain a Top Five team.
Indiana can now continue on with their season with a lower profile and switch its focus to a difficult upcoming conference schedule.
Another silver lining: The Hoosiers clearly played their worst game of the season and still forced overtime, losing by only two points to a very respectable opponent.
Although it may not seem like it at the moment, this could be a big confidence boost for Tom Crean’s squad, knowing that they can still compete, even while playing their worst basketball.
Despite their subpar play overall, Indiana did show glimpses of offensive greatness, getting solid performances from Oladipo and sophomore Cody Zeller, who both finished with 18 points.
But Zeller also grabbed just five rebounds and senior Jordan Hulls did not connect from downtown. That the Hoosiers still came so close to winning has to make fans feel a little bit better about the outcome.
Though none of them logged serious minutes, freshman Hanner Masquera-Parea and Peter Jurkin, along with senior Derek Elston were all dressed in uniform for the first time this season.
It’s difficult to be positive after a loss, but the future is still bright for Indiana—and if there is a time to lose, it’s in December.
So yes, the No.1 crown may belong to someone else for now, but smile Hoosier fans, there is still plenty of time to go.