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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 23 Butler at Providence

Source: Icon Sportswire / Getty

OMAHA, Neb. — The last time Butler defeated Creighton in Omaha was back in 2015 on a last-second lay-in by Roosevelt Jones.

The heroics did not come at the last second this time as they did nine years ago, but they did come from a shooting performance not seen from the Bulldogs in quite some time. A performance that lifted the Bulldogs to a 99-98 victory over the #13 ranked Blue Jays.

“We’ve had plenty of games in this league where we have been right there,” “I’m proud of the guys tonight. I told the guys, ‘You’re going to have to make shots tonight.’ That’s how you beat Creighton.”

It’s already a tough test for an unranked team going into a ranked opponent’s arena, especially when it is a conference game in the Big East. But, it’s an even tougher test when one of your star players is unavailable with an injury.

For Butler, it was Posh Alexander who made the trip to Omaha and even tried warming up, but the decision was made for him to sit with a boot on his right foot for the game.

With no Posh Alexander, Butler needed an extra effort from elsewhere, and they found it in Jahmyl Telfort, who by the end of the night would have 26 points. But, the Dawgs would go even further and find even more of that effort from their bench.

With Jalen Thomas sitting for 15 of the game’s first 20 minutes with foul trouble and no Posh Alexander to lean on, Matta dug deep into his bench with Finley Bizjack, Andre Screen, Augusto Cassia, and Boden Kapke.

“That was the game,” Matta said. “Our bench was tremendous. That was the game. There was no doubt about it.”

The Bulldogs would get a whopping 25 points from their bench players led by Bizjack, who closed the first half by hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the center-count logo.

The first half was not without challenges though. Butler shot over 50% from the field. So did the Blue Jays. Late in the half, it seemed that every time Butler hit a lay-up, Creighton would return the favor with a three-pointer, usually from Trey Alexander who had 22 points for Creighton.

Down 49-45 at the half, after being down by as many as 10, Butler got their footing leading off the second half on a 12-to-8 scoring swing that gave them the lead. 

From there, the offensive clinic was on as both teams matched each other shot for shot, like two prize fights working through the rounds of a boxing match and neither one giving in to the relentless onslaught of their opponent.

Through that stretch, Pierre Brooks III came alive after being held to just one point in the first half. He hit five shots in a row at one point and finished the night with 14 points.

Fortunately for Butler, they would never again surrender the lead from that point on, but they would never be ‘comfortable’ by any stretch of the imagination as Creighton, led by Baylor Scheierman’s 26 points, never left Butler’s rearview mirror.

“That was a crazy game,” Telfort said. “There was a lot of shot-making in that game. They were making some crazy threes and some crazy shots. We just kept coming back and just hitting shots too.”

By the game’s end, both teams had an even shooting percentage, an astounding 55%. Bizjack and Kapke were key in the second half knocking down timely threes when the Bulldogs needed them. Bizjack finished with 11 points and Kapke had 8 points.

DJ Davis added 22 points of his own, a bulk of which came late in the game giving Butler a 92-88 lead with four minutes to play.

The game’s final minute took more than ten minutes in real time as both teams fouled, hit (and missed) foul shots, turned the ball over, and played the clock for all it was worth. At one point Davis was fouled and was poked in the eye. Unable to see properly, Davis came out and it was the newcomer Kapke coming in the clutch and knocking down both free throws in Davis’ stead.

Both teams kept milking the clock until it showed 00.0 with Butler ahead 99-98. Game over.

Butler ended the game with 13 made three-point shots (59% 3-pt shooting), which is a new season high. Creighton ended with four players scoring over 20 points. The game is the highest-scoring game in regulation in the Big East since 2009.

Not only is the win an upset for Butler, but it is also a valuable Quad-1 victory that Butler can add to its tournament resume. Butler now has five Quad-1 wins on the season, which will come in handy given how deep the Big East is this year with teams more than qualified to make the Big Dance.

For now, the Bulldogs remain focused on the immediate future as they will bring their four-game winning streak back to Mansfield next Tuesday where they will take on the #1 ranked and reigning national champion UConn Huskies on the road, a team that they nearly beat inside Hinke Fieldhouse back in December.