MEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State ends 7-game losing streak to Butler
Jones' basket with 48 seconds left lifts Cardinals to first win over Bulldogs since 2003
After releasing the self-proclaimed biggest shot of his career, Jarrod Jones held his follow through just a little bit longer.
The senior center wasn't letting another chance at a marquee win get away.
"Coach drew up a play and said run it all the way through," Jones said. "We just played until we got the shot we wanted. When I got it, I had the focus to knock it down."
Jones' baseline jumper gave Ball State a 56-54 lead over Butler with 48 seconds remaining.
Two empty possessions by the Bulldogs allowed senior point guard Randy Davis to ice the game at the free throw line with only seconds left.
When senior guard Ronald Nored made his last meaningless free throw, Ball State inbounded the ball and pandemonium started.
The 58-55 win was Ball State's first over Butler since 2003 and the players celebrated like it.
Davis slammed the ball down before rushing to center court in a mob with his teammates. Players jumped, hugged and screamed. It was clear this meant something special.
"Down the stretch, I had a feeling in my head that we weren't going to lose this game," Jones said. "We were in a similar situation in Arizona and let that one slip away. We haven't beaten them yet since I've been here, so it meant a lot for our fans and the program in general to get this win."
Before leaving the court, Ball State let the 8,412 fans in Worthen Arena know how they felt. Players went and shook hands with students in The Nest and waved to tumultuous applause.
"It was obviously our biggest crowd of the year and they were great," redshirt sophomore forward Tyler Koch said. "I think a big focus with us was staying focused with all the energy [in the arena]."
Ball State fed off the emotion throughout the game. The team jumped out on an 8-0 run to start and never trailed.
Typically even-keeled players like Jones were talking and firing up the crowd. Koch even blew on his hands like pistols after one 3-point bucket.
Ball State's offense flowed through Jones who led the team with 21 points and eight rebounds. Butler had no answer for the 6'9 big man inside and started double-teaming him. That left players like Koch outside to bury 3-pointers.
The team went 5-14 from the 3-point line, but nearly all its makes were critical. Koch made three himself and finished with nine points.
"I don't know why people don't come out and watch them [Ball State] more," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "Jones is near pro. We switched Khyle [Marshall] on him late, but Andrew [Smith] did a nice job, except for a few spin moves where he got beat. He was taking contested jump shots and made them. He made plays like a player does at that moment."
Marshall did his best Jones imitation on the other end while trying to keep his team in contention.
Butler's offense struggled most of the game, shooting at a 30.8 percent (20-65) clip. Ball State led by as many as 12 in the second half, but the two-time NCAA finalists were resilient.
Marshall's 21 points and 16 rebounds carried the Bulldogs most of the game offensively. Tough buckets, like the two and-one dunks he had, swung the momentum. Butler tied the game for the first time at 44 with 8:55 remaining.
The Bulldogs had their chances, but Stevens wasn't pleased with how his team played.
"I didn't see any advances in consistency and that was one of my concerns," Stevens said. "I'm excited about the way Khyle played, but we need to see a lot more."
Jones and Marshall went back-and-forth down the stretch with neither team gaining an edge until Jones shot with under a minute left.
A lob pass off Smith's hands followed by a turnover by Marshall spoiled Butler's final two possessions.
After watching such narrow margins disappear in games earlier in the season, Taylor said the credit goes to his guys for stepping up on the defensive end.
"I thought we did a great job that last minute and a half of just closing down and saying, ‘ok we can't allow any more scores," Taylor said. "We knew Butler was going to make a run. We didn't expect this game to get away one way or another."
Koch made a nonsense foul with .5 seconds left to give Butler a chance to get four points, but senior guard Ronald Nored missed two free throws.
In the end it all went Ball State's way and it needed to. After losing to big name teams earlier in the season, Jones said this win filled an emotional void.
"It felt great to know that we could deliver," Jones said. "We went out there and saw the crowd at the beginning of the game. We just wanted to give them a show so they would come back for future games this season. In my years here, we've played some big teams like Purdue, Butler—and we haven't been able to deliver. To just go out there and have a mission and complete it. It felt good."