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,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said in a release. “That's the guy who changed the game. There is no other story in my opinion.
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-foot-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.
"He and Roosevelt (Jones) did a great job on (the Cardinals) defensively on the perimeter,” Stevens said. “And our 'bigs' were better and tougher on the inside in the second half and we won."
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.
"After the Hanover game, I had a film session with Coach (Michael) Lewis,” Barlow explained. “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. So when I came in, I was just trying to bring energy and follow what the coaches told us to do."
Nine different Ball State players scored, led by junior guard Jesse Berry with 12 points. Junior forward Majok Majok added nine points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for a Cardinals team that held a three-point lead early in the second half at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
“I was proud of the effort our guys played with out there today,” Ball State coach Billy Taylor said. “I thought we showed what we were capable of. That's a really good team we played. There's a reason they beat North Carolina and Marquette.”
Butler senior guard 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.
The Bulldogs shot just 40.6 percent (28-69) for the game, including a season-low 17.4 percent (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.
Ball State finished the game with 19 turnovers, while Butler turned the ball over just five times. Twelve of the Cardinals' turnovers came in the second half.
“That's where we have to get better as a team, making that extra pass,” Taylor said. “I thought we did more of that in the first half; we were able to penetrate and get a kick and get a secondary drive. Against a good defense like Butler's, they're going to make adjustments, and they really closed the paint down on us.”
Butler will host IUPUI on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Ball State will host Holy Cross (Ind.) Wednesday at Worthen Arena at 7 p.m.