It was far from a pretty game, in fact, at times it was downright agonizing to watch, but Butler found a way. Led by 20 points from Kellen Dunham and a strong effort from Kameron Woods (nine points, nine rebounds), the Bulldogs topped Texas and are now headed to the round of 32 to face ACC champion Notre Dame. Here are some lessons from the game.
1. Butler can compete without Jones
With just over 15 minutes remaining in the contest, do-it-all swingman Roosevelt Jones limped off the court, favoring his left knee. At that point, the Bulldogs were trailing 28-27 and in the midst of a serious scoring drought. However, even without their best playmaker, the Bulldogs were suddenly and inexplicably better.
Over the next five minutes they went on a 12-3 run to pull out to a 39-30 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.Jones would return, but Chris Holtmann had to be pleased that his team played so well without him.
Although there has been no official word, Jones' injury appears to be a strain in his left knee, which clearly hampered him down the stretch, aside from a nice lefty layup. Jones finished with only six points on 3-of-10 shooting and four assists. All four of his dimes came in the first half as did four of his points.
Even with Jones missing some time, Holtmann really rode his starters in this one. Butler's starting five accounted for 49 of the team's 56 points, all 28 of its rebounds and all 11 assists as well. The only reserves to see the floor were Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman. Martin played an important role, scoring seven points in the second half as he filled in for Jones.
It's nothing new for Holtmann to only go five deep, as all five players in the starting lineup each average at least 28 minutes per game. However, if Martin can play at such a level, even for short stretches, it should help Butler moving forward, especially if Jones' injury lingers.
2. Scoring droughts have to stop
Part of the miracle of Butler surviving without Jones was the fact that it flat could not score for a long stretch prior to his departure. With 4:28 left in the first half, Dunham made a 3-pointer off an assist from Andrew Chrabascz. Fast forward to the 14-minute mark of the second half and that shot remained Butler's most recent field goal. That's right, the Bulldogs went over 10 minutes without making a shot that wasn't from the free-throw line. In that time, Texas went on a 15-2 run and took a 30-28 lead.
Then, in the last 10 minutes of the game, the Bulldogs only tallied two field goals, one of which was a huge triple from Dunham. In all, they hit just 33.3 percent of their shots in the game (16-of-48), including 4-of-13 from 3-point range. It wasn't a catastrophe because of how erratic Texas was on offense. The Longhorns had 15 turnovers (Butler only had five), while shooting 34 percent. Holtmann's crew won't get such favorable treatment against the Irish, who scorch nets to the tune of 51.2 percent, the second-best mark in the country.
3. Texas' frontcourt is for real; Big 12 not so much
In the days leading up to this matchup, all anyone wanted to know was how Butler would deal with Texas' size. The answer: not all that well. Yes, the Bulldogs won the game, but not due to their domination on the interior. When they were running with Big East foes in January and February, the Bulldogs got used to dominating the glass, ranking at the top of the conference in rebounding percentage (55.3). Stepping out of the Big East neighborhood was a painful illustration that the league is dominated by guards and not forwards. Texas had a commanding advantage on the glass (41-28) and although Woods finished with nine boards, he had to scrape and claw his way for all of them, while being pushed around by behemoths like Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner.
Butler will have to work a bit on that in preparation for the next round and possibly beyond (Kansas and Kentucky won't be easy inside either). Texas doesn't have the luxury of another chance, nor does Iowa State or Baylor, who were both upset in the first few hours of the NCAA Tournament, busting brackets from sea to shining sea.