Indianapolis • Part barn, part airplane hangar and part basketball shrine, Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse is more than a home-court advantage. It’s one of the few venues in sports that inspires awe and nostalgia as soon as you stroll through the door.
The Utes will be the enemy when they take the floor at Hinkle at 7 p.m. MST for Tuesday night’s match-up against Butler which will air on FS1. They also won’t be oblivious to the fact that they’ll be surrounded by basketball history, both real and brought to life by the magic of the movies.
Utah (6-1) will look for its second win away from Salt Lake City. Butler (6-2) hasn’t lost at home this season in its quaint setting which accommodates 9,100 spectators.
“On a scale from one to cool, it’s awesome — if that makes any sense,” Utes senior forward David Collette said while sitting on bleachers at one end of the floor following Monday’s practice. “It’s unreal being here. You always here about it. It’s a classic stadium. It’s just a good experience to be here.”
The movie “Hoosiers,” released in 1987 and based on the true story of a small high school from a remote Indiana town that sent its team to the state finals in 1954, has grown into one of the most-iconic sports movies ever made.
The dramatic final game scenes were filmed in Hinkle Fieldhouse when the small, scrappy team from the middle of nowhere overcame adversity to beat the powerhouse program for the state title.
If the film’s inspiring story wasn’t captivating enough, Butler authored an even more charming real-life story of a little-known college from a second-tier conference slugging it out on the court with the nation’s blue blood programs and coming within inches on a buzzer-beater half-court heave of shocking the basketball world by beating Duke and winning a national championship in 2010. And, of course, Jazz fans know who took that final shot that just missed: Gordon Hayward.
Then the Bulldogs had the audacity to do what Hollywood wouldn’t even dare. They produced a sequel. Despite losing Hayward, their best player from the prior season, to the NBA, the Bulldogs mounted a run the following season to the NCAA championship game where it lost to another national power in the form of the University of Connecticut.
“Knowing tomorrow night it’ll be a packed house, it’ll be loud,” Collette said of Hinkle Fieldhouse. “It will probably be unlike anything — because it’s a little bit smaller and I think it would be a little bit louder in here — we’ve ever been at.”
This historic house of hoops earned designation as a National Historic Landmark 30 years ago, well before any of the current Utes were even born. The first Butler game took place in the field house in the final year of the Calvin Coolidge presidential administration (1928) in what was then known as the “Butler Fieldhouse.”
While the building’s basketball history remains the stuff of lore, it has also hosted track meets, international volleyball matches, tennis matches, roller derby, and it even housed a U.S. Military barracks during World War II.
“It’s an Indiana basketball gym, a lot of history behind it,” Utes junior guard Sedrick Barefield said. “I’m in love with the gym, really. I’m excited to play here.”
While Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged following Saturday’s win over Hawaii that places like Hinkle just have a different “aroma” than your typical arena, saying that the events from decades past almost hang in the air like a scent, by Monday afternoon he’d mostly put that aside nostalgia. The only thing he was interested in getting a whiff of was a win on the road against a defensive-minded team.
“They keep the ball in front of them,” Krystkowiak said of Butler’s defensive prowess. “They put a great emphasis on not letting the ball get into the paint via the bounce or the pass. It’s protected real well. They’ve got physical guys that can guard you one-on-one at the point of attack.
“It’s truly not that complicated. I don’t want to discredit what they’ve done, but it’s a really good example of coaching a lot of defensive fundamentals and some of the simpler things. Like Tony Dungy said in his book, you just do the ordinary things extraordinarily well [and it] leads to success.”
UTAH at BUTLER
Tipoff • Tuesday, 7:07 p.m. (MT)
TV • FS1
Radio • 700 AM
Records • Utah 6-1, Butler 6-2
Series history • Butler leads 2-1
Last meeting • Butler won 68-59 on Nov. 28, 2016, in Salt Lake City.
About the Bulldogs • First-year Butler coach LaVall Jordan had been with the program as a player and an assistant coach prior to taking over the program following one season at Milwaukee. He played for Butler from 1998-2001 and served as an assistant from 2003-07. … Butler enters Tuesday’s game coming off of a dominating defensive performance against Saint Louis on Saturday. Saint Louis shot just 28.6 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers. Butler held the visitors to 13 first-half points. … Forward Kelan Martin leads the team in scoring(16.5 ppg) and rebounds (7.5 rpg). The 6-foot-7, 220-pound senior ha sstarted all eight games and has shot 40 percent from the field this season. Martin has earned second-team All-Big East Conference honors thepast two seasons.
About the Utes •Utah freshman forward Donnie Tillman has scored10 points or more in six of the seven games he has played in this season. He enters this week averaging 10.9 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game off the bench. He has shot 53.2 percent from the floor and 85.7 percent from the free throw line. … Senior guard Justin Bibbins is shooting 38 percent from behind the 3-point arc this season and 48 percent overall. He’s tied for second on the team in scoring (10.9 ppg) with Tillman, and Bibbins also leads the team with 4.3 assists per game. … Senior forward David Collette has averaged a team-high 14.9 points per game while shooting 60.7 percent from the field. He has played an average of just 21.1 minutes per game this season. Collette, who sat out the first semester last season, was not eligible to play in last year’s game against Butler.