A.J. Graves made sure the Hoosiers would be staying home for the holidays.
The White River Valley H.S. graduate scored 13 of his team-high 20 points in the second half, including a 24-foot, 3-point bank shot with :05.0 remaining, to lift Butler to a 60-55 win over Indiana in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off Classic.
Butler (3-0) advances to next week's NIT semifinals in New York City, while Indiana (1-1) returns home to try to figure out how it allowed the game to slip through their collective finger tips. While Graves' late 3-pointer was the game-clincher, it was Indiana's inability to hold onto its own 12-point with less than ten minutes remaining that gave the Graves and the Bulldogs a chance for its late-game heroics.
Indiana limited Butler to just 16-of-48 shooting overall and Graves to 4-of-18 shooting individually, but 20 IU turnovers and 25 fouls gave Butler extra possessions and 26 trips to the free-throw line and ultimately allowed the Bulldogs to get back into the game in the closing minutes.
Butler seized the opportunity.
"Basketball is a simple game," IU Coach Kelvin Sampson said. "I thought we did some really good things tonight. Our defense was outstanding. We hold them to 33 percent shooting, we out-rebound them by 15, but we have to play smarter. We turned it over 20 times and sent them to the line."
It was a tough pill for the Hoosiers to swallow, but a game that Sampson believes his squad can learn from.
"You have to take care of the basketball, and you have to value possessions," Sampson said. "It can help us as we move along. We knew it would be a process."
After the teams went back and forth during a turnover and foul-plagued first half, the Hoosiers appeared ready to take control midway through the second half. D.J. White scored four of his team-high 22 points and Rod Wilmont added five of his 14 during a 13-2 Hoosier run that turned a 34-32 IU lead into a 47-35 cushion with less than ten minutes remaining.
But Butler answered, and they did it with starting point guard Mike Green and his 17 points sitting on the sidelines with four fouls. Graves hit six straight free throws and Marcus Nellems hit a 3-pointer during a 9-0 Butler run that cut the lead to 47-44 with 7:14 remaining. A pair of A.J. Ratliff free throws pushed the lead back to five, but Drew Streicher scored on a lay-up, and Graves hit a floater in the lane to cut the IU lead to one with 4:02 on the clock.
After D.J. White was whistled for an offensive foul on the other end, Butler's Willie Veasley put back a Graves miss to give Butler a 50-49 lead. That lead ballooned to five after Armon Bassett was called for an intentional foul on a Graves breakaway, and Graves hit both free throws and Brandon Crone knocked down a wide-open 18-footer to make it 54-49 with 3:16 remaining.
White scored on back-to-back trips and Lance Stemler hit a 19-footer with just under a minute remaining to eventually cut Butler's lead to 57-55, but Graves' shot was the final dagger for an Indiana team that appeared poised to make its fifth consecutive trip to the semifinals of the Preseason NIT.
Hoosiers Bounced from NIT
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