INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana guard Devonte Green kept trying to make the designed play work as the final seconds ticked away Saturday.
His first option, Romeo Langford, couldn’t break free. Green couldn’t spot his second option, Juwan Morgan, through all the bodies.
So freshman guard Rob Phinisee scrambled to the center of the court, gave Green an unlikely third option and did the only thing he could — caught the ball and launched a 25-foot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the Hoosiers a 71-68 victory over rival Butler in the Crossroads Classic.
“Obviously, it wasn’t drawn up like that. I just slid over, threw it up and prayed to God that it would go in,” Phinisee said.
He wasn’t alone.
Coach Archie Miller, who called timeout with 18.7 seconds left to draw it up, watched anxiously as the Bulldogs’ vaunted defense nearly kept Indiana from even getting a shot off.
Langford, Indiana’s reigning Mr. Basketball Award winner, couldn’t get away from Sean McDermott long enough to make a move toward the basket. Green couldn’t find Morgan, who scored a career-high 35 points, and was essentially trapped after picking up his dribble beyond the top of the key — until Phinisee improvised.
“They did a good job of not letting Romeo get a catch. They tried to keep it from getting it in his hands and they did,” Miller said. “I’d be lying if I said when he (Phinisee) shot it, I didn’t think it had a chance of going in.”
Replays showed the ball was out of Phinisee’s hands with 0.3 seconds on the clock — just enough time to give the Hoosiers (9-2) their fourth straight win and another memorable chapter in school lore.
Fans in this basketball-crazed state were already debating where it ranked among Indiana’s top buzzer-beaters.
Indiana players took their celebration from near midcourt to the tunnel on the other end of the floor from the Hoosiers’ bench as Indiana Pacers star and former Hoosiers standout Victor Oladipo flashed a 3-point signal from his seat.
Meanwhile, Butler (7-3) was cringing.
The Bulldogs never trailed until Morgan made two free throws to break a 64-64 tie with 3:05 left. Kamar Baldwin tied it once with a layup and a second time when he knocked down a 5-foot runner with 23.6 seconds left. And after going just 3 of 11 from the field with three turnovers in the final 10 minutes, it looked like the defense had played well enough to get them into overtime.
Instead, on a day McDermott scored 20 points with a career-high six 3s and Baldwin added 16, Phinisee made sure Butler fell short.
“He just knocked in a tough one,” Baldwin said.
Butler: The Bulldogs picked the wrong time for a scoring drought and it cost them. They finished with seven points in the last 9:31.
Indiana: The Hoosiers have been playing gritty all season, and it saved them again Saturday when they took some of Butler’s best punches and still came out on top. They’ve won their last four games by two, two, one and now three.
Butler: Jordan Tucker, a transfer from Duke, got his first action this season and scored three points in a little less than eight minutes. ... Joey Brunk finished with eight points and five rebounds. ... The Bulldogs have allowed only two teams to top the 70-point mark this season — Mississippi and Indiana. ... Butler is 5-3 in the Classic and 11-5 all-time in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Indiana: Morgan was 12 of 14 from the field, 4 of 6 on 3s and 7 of 7 from the free-throw line with three rebounds, two steals and two blocks. ... Langford had 13 points, even rebounds and four assists and drew seven fouls. ... The Hoosiers went 9 of 21 on 3s but were 7 of 13 in the second half.
THEY SAID IT
Butler: “I’ve been telling our staff that on film, Phinisee has been as impressive as any guard I’ve seen,” coach LaVall Jordan said. “I thought we did a good job containing, didn’t let Langford get the ball. He (Phinisee) heaved one in.”
Indiana: “I think we’d like to get a couple, you know, wins where it’s not in the last 10 seconds where we win,” Morgan said. “At the same time, it’s the ones that you grind out that are the best feeling.”
Butler: Hosts Presbyterian on Tuesday.
Indiana: Returns home to face Central Arkansas on Wednesday.