With its initial momentum evaporated and Roosevelt Jones out with an injury early in the second half, Butler looked to be in danger of becoming another upset victim on the first day of the NCAA tournament.
But the sixth-seeded Bulldogs withstood the absence of their most important player, using a 12-2 run to re-establish control of the game and holding on from there for a 56-48 win over 11-seed Texas in Pittsburgh.
Led by guard Isaiah Taylor, who scored 10 straight points for Texas, the Longhorns scrapped their way back into it down the stretch and got within one point with just under three minutes to play. Butler sharpshooter Kellen Dunham then shook off a subpar shooting day to hit a huge three-pointer with just over minute remaining, pushing the Bulldogs’ lead to 48-43 and allowing them to salt the game away from the free throw line.
Jones hadn’t made much of an impact before he went down awkwardly after a shot attempt around the 16-minute mark in the second half, but his injury nevertheless threatened to derail Butler’s chances. Jones and his teammates had established control early in the game but allowed Texas to finish the first half on a 9-0 run, and the Longhorns quickly went ahead after the break for the first time since they led 7-6.
Butler began the second half by missing its first nine field goal attempts, a stretch that included Jones’s injury. But the Bulldogs were able to find their touch, soon opening up another nine-point lead. After a trip to the locker room, Jones re-entered the game and scored one on of his trademark wonky shots around the five-minute mark to extend Butler’s lead back out to seven points. That’s when Taylor threatened to carry the Longhorns to a comeback win, before Dunham’s clutch shot halted their attempt.
Dunham finished with a game-high 20 points and Taylor had 14 for Texas on a day where both teams were offensively challenged—Texas shot just 34% from the field, and Butler was worse at 33.3%. Jonathan Holmes, who almost singlehandedly kept the Longhorns in the game in the first half, led UT with 15 points.
Though Jones’ health remains a question due to his noticeable limp after re-entering the game, Butler moves on to play in-state rival Notre Dame in the round of 32. Texas’s loss meant the Big 12 went winless in its first three games of the tournament.