INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Butler used a staunch second half defensive effort, sparked by a hard-working player off the bench, to subdue visiting Ball State, 67-53, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, Dec. 1. The strong finish lifted Butler to its fourth win in the past five games.
Fueled by the defensive intensity of sophomore Alex Barlow, the Bulldogs broke a 33-33 halftime tie and surged to a commanding lead with a 21-5 run to open the final period. Ball State (2-4) never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
"(Barlow) changed the game. That's the guy who changed the game. There is no other story in my opinion," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the game. "He and Roosevelt (Jones) did a great job on (the Cardinals) defensively on the perimeter, and our 'bigs' were better and tougher on the inside in the second half and we won."
The Bulldogs (5-2), who led by as many as nine points in the first 20 minutes, saw Ball State close the first half with an 11-2 run to tie the game at halftime. The Cardinals then scored the first three points of the second half to take their biggest lead of the game.
That's when Stevens inserted Barlow into the game. The 5-11 guard from Springboro, Ohio, who was averaging less than nine minutes per game, scored on a lay-up to start the Bulldogs' decisive run, and then he helped lead a defensive effort that held the Cardinals scoreless for seven straight minutes.
The Cardinals scored just 20 points and had 12 turnovers in the final 20 minutes, while shooting just .368 (7-19) from the field.
"After the Hanover game, I had a film session with Coach Lewis. I didn't play as hard as I should of and our team didn't play as hard, so coach told me if I went in today to be ready and play hard and try to bring energy," said Barlow of his performance. "So when I came in, I was just trying to bring energy and follow what the coaches told us to do."
Barlow wound up playing a season-high 19 minutes in the game, and he finished with a career-high five points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Senior Rotnei Clarke led both teams with 15 points, despite hitting just three of 12 attempts from beyond the three-point arc. His first three-pointer in the game was the 300th of his collegiate career. Senior Andrew Smith chipped in with 12 points, five rebounds and a pair of blocked shots, while junior Khyle Marshall, plagued by foul trouble, wound up with 10 points and a team-high six rebounds.
Guard Jesse Berry was the lone Ball State player to reach double-figures, finishing with a team-high 12 points.
The Bulldogs shot just 40.6% (28-69) for the game, including a season-low 17.4% (4-23) from three-point range. Butler had a season-high 10 steals and a season-low five turnovers in the contest.
The win was Butler's eighth straight against the Cardinals in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler will wrap-up its current three-game home stretch with a game against crosstown foe IUPUI on Wednesday, Dec. 5. That contest at Hinkle Fieldhouse will start at 7 p.m. (ET).