KRAVITZ: Storming the court: a $5,000 fine. Beating No. 1-ranked Villanova at Hinkle: priceless

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Bob Kravitz

That was worth $5,000, or whatever the Big East Conference fines Butler for the storming of the court after No. 18 Butler's 66-58 victory over undefeated, No. 1-ranked Villanova. Ultimately, Big East commissioner Val Ackerman will make that call, but honestly, if athletic director Barry Collier set up a GoFundMe page right this minute, I can think of a whole lot of people who will happily make a donation after that marvelous effort against the defending national champions.

One of those people being Butler coach Chris Holtmann.

"Listen, I'll make a significant contribution to (pay for) that," Holtmann said. "Absolutely. It's good to see everybody out on the floor..."

Of course they stormed the floor, and why shouldn't they after the Dawgs did something that's never been done in the storied 89-year history of this basketball cathedral, namely knock off a No. 1 team here? This was the first time a No. 1 team has come to Hinkle since Dec. 12, 1953, when IU beat Butler in Hinkle. It goes without saying, then, that this was the first time Butler has ever beaten a No. 1 team in this facility.

Why not celebrate with the players and coaches even after a campus e-mail Wednesday specifically asked fans not to invade the floor? Shoot, that wasn't a cease and desist notice, just a friendly suggestion At least that's the way I see it.

Collier, who was standing in the back of the press room waiting for Holtmann to arrive with three players (Kethan Savage, Kamar Baldwin and Andrew Chrabascz) in tow, smiled when asked about digging into his university's wallet.

He quickly pointed out that Butler was prepared for this possibility, that roughly 50 security people and police officers quickly surrounded the Villanova players and coaches and protected them from the madness that surrounded them. And honestly, it wasn't a court storming as much as it was a peaceful occupation.

"I've got a bunch of people who said they would help us pay (a fine)," Collier said with a smile. "But we were very deliberate in protecting the teams, especially the visitors. We had a boatload of security and police and staff, probably 50 people, a body line and a chain so people couldn't get to them (Villanova)…I want safety for everybody but I love the enthusiasm. It's a matter of striking the right balance."

He paused.

"I'm fine with it," he said, grinning conspiratorially.

What Butler did down the stretch was out-Villanova Villanova (I just made up a verb). Most nights, the Wildcats win this kind of game with their experience and poise and tenacity, with Jalen Brunson getting to the basket, with Kris Jenkins knocking down a key three-ball, with Josh Hart doing the kinds of things a Player of the Year front-runner does. This is a Villanova program that came into Hinkle having won 38 of 41 games it played in 2016, the most wins ever by a program in a single calendar year. They are good, they are poised, they are smart – they're everything but deep, and played with an even shorter bench Wednesday night with Phil Booth out of the lineup.

Butler, though, was tougher. Grittier (sorry, had a Chuck Pagano moment there). Once Avery Woodson knocked down a short put-back floater to give Butler a 51-50 lead with 3:44 left – Woodson gave them eight huge points -- the Dawgs did to Villanova what Villanova usually does to opponents. As Villanova coach Jay Wright said later, it wasn't one monster play, like Jenkins' game winner in the national title game, as much as it was a collection of smaller plays, most of which Butler made, especially down the stretch.

"We talked about fighting frustration because you have to when you play Villanova," Holtmann said. "But they did a good job staying with it and giving ourselves a chance there late."

There was Kethan Savage's driving score, the kind of play the George Washington transfer made all night as he finished with 13 points in 21 minutes, a basket that put Butler ahead 53-52. There was Kelan Martin's jumper that made it 55-52 with 2:17 remaining. There was Savage's steal and three-point play that put the Dawgs ahead 58-52 with 1:46 left. And there was a play by Kamar Baldwin, the big-time freshman who's going to be a special player here for years to come, when he missed a shot, but then stole the ball right back and made a ridiculous reverse layup to put Butler ahead 60-54.

Did I mention that Baldwin is going to be a star someday?

"For him to make that shot (a reverse layup) after he bobbled the ball…" Holtmann said.

Yeah, exactly. Wow.

Butler didn't win this game with the usual suspects. It won with its bench, outscoring Villanova's short bench 25-6. It won with its defense, making plays and then getting out in transition and out-scoring Villanova 8-0 in fast break points. And it rebounded, something Butler isn't generally known to do with great regularity or success. After hanging around and hanging around in the first half despite shooting poorly, the Bulldogs pulled it together in the second half, shooting 52 percent to Villanova's 31 percent.

That's not supposed to happen to Villanova.

Except it just did. And the Bulldogs did something they've never done in the history of the program. Not under Collier or Thad Matta or Brad Stevens or anybody. Wasn't this supposed to be a rebuilding year at Butler? Looks to me like just another routine year at Butler. This is who they are and what they do. This is the norm. It stopped being a surprise a long time ago.

It was, simply said, one of those Hinkle Magic games. "The loudest I've ever heard Hinkle" Holtmann said. "And it's gotten loud in my short time here. Really loud. But that was the loudest...We only had, what, eight assists? Well, they (the crowd) deserve one more." There have been memorable moments here over the many years this place has graced the Butler campus, and this was another one of them, right there with Roosevelt Jones' buzzer-beating runner to beat Gonzaga.

Even Jay Wright, the Villanova coach who had to be restrained from going after an official early in the game, made a point to laud the Butler crowd. Called them "tactical," paying homage to the basketball IQ of this state. Loud, crazy…but "tactical."

Whatever this game and this court-storming ends up costing Butler, it was worth every single penny. Just take it out of Holtmann's paycheck. It's his fault, anyway, right?

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