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Indiana 71, Butler 68: Three things

Rob Phinisee’s buzzer-beating winner pushes the Hoosiers past the Bulldogs.

NCAA Basketball: Crossroads Classic-Butler at Indiana Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The 25th-ranked Indiana Hoosiers came back from an 11-point deficit on Saturday afternoon against the hometown Butler Bulldogs in the Crossroads Classic and won 71-68 on a buzzer-beating three by freshman phenom Rob Phinisee.

After the Bulldogs tied the game on a Kamar Baldwin bucket with less than 30 seconds remaining, the Hoosier offense got stagnant with a failed weave 30-feet from the basket, but Phinisee bailed Indiana out with an absolute bomb that tickled the twine as the horn sounded. Phinisee finished with nine points.

The rest of Indiana’s offensive success was all thanks to Juwan Morgan, who finished with a career-high 35 points on 14-of-16 shooting. Morgan scored 18 of his 35 in the first half to keep the Hoosiers within striking distance, and then gave Indiana the lead for the first time in the ballgame when he scored six straight points late in the second half to make the score 66-64.

With the win, Indiana improves to 9-2 on the season and adds yet another quality win to its résumé, which now includes five wins over Top-50 KenPom teams.

Here are tonight’s three things:

Rob Phinisee made himself the story. By no means was this Phinisee’s best performance as a Hoosier. But his game-winner highlighted his importance to this club. Since Yogi Ferrell’s departure, Indiana has been devoid of a leader in the backcourt (sorry, not sorry, Rob Johnson and James Blackmon), but not anymore. Phinisee only scored nine points, but he added five rebounds and five assists, while only turning the ball over once. Beyond that solid stat line and the big shot, though, is that Phinisee, a Lafayette native, did it on a day when Purdue looked like it could desperately use a young, talented guard.

Name the damn event after Juwan Morgan. Last season, Juwan Morgan gave Bonzie Colson the business in the Crossroads Classic, scoring what was, until today, a career-high 34 points on 13-of-17 shooting, adding 11 rebounds, and limiting Colson to just 9-of-21 shooting from the floor. Today, Morgan was the difference between a Butler blowout and an Indiana win. On a day when the Bulldogs limited Romeo Langford’s output — allowing just 13 points on 11 shots from the freshman and forcing 5 turnovers — Morgan carried the load. Morgan will be first-team All-Big Ten and may threaten to make an All-American list if he continues to thrive this season. But if every game Indiana played was in the Crossroads JMo Classic, he’d be a lock for the Naismith.

This was a win over a tournament-caliber team from a Power 5 conference. And don’t let any of the Butler fans you know tell you otherwise. Butler isn’t the scrappy underdog anymore. “Yeah, well, Indiana has more talent and students and money and . . . “ is not a credible argument. Indiana won. Butler lost. Nothing else is relevant. But that won’t stop your neighbors, coworkers, and friends from trying to persuade you. Frame your wins as heroic and your losses as inevitable: The Butler Way.