DETROIT—It is only about 30 minutes after No. 10 Butler has knocked off No. 7 Arkansas in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, but Jessie Eastman must put the celebration on a quick hold of the modern variety. “We are making a pit stop because we took too many pictures, so all of our phones are dead,” says Eastman, a 2015 Butler graduate who lives in Detroit and attended the game with seven friends. “We had a blast and probably took too many pictures. We are going to stop at home to charge our phones and then keep the celebration going.”
All of Bulldog Nation has reason to celebrate. During a game of runs – Butler jumped out to a 21-2 lead in the opening minutes, only to see that disappear late in the first half – it was the Bulldogs that took control again early in the second half and pushed the lead back to double digits en route to a 79-62 win. Now, the Bulldogs will take on 2-seed Purdue on Sunday in an all-Indiana matchup. The Boilermakers beat Butler 82-67 in the Crossroads Classic in December, but the Bulldogs lead Purdue 2-1 in head-to-head Crossroad matchups. The winner of Sunday’s game will advance to the Sweet 16 next weekend.
“We had a much louder, larger crowd than Arkansas today. There was a huge Butler showing and it felt like a home game. Of course, nothing beats Hinkle, but it was pretty close,” Eastman says. “It will be really exciting to see the atmosphere against Purdue. Today, we saw Purdue fans rooting us on, but of course on Sunday, it will be a completely different story.” Eastman, who has lived in Detroit for about a year, was hoping on Selection Sunday that Butler would play in Detroit. After the bracket was released, her phone started blowing up. She has fellow Butler grads from Indianapolis and Chicago asking to stay on her couch, and now, they just extended their stay.
“Oh, we are definitely starting to look into tickets and will be here through Sunday,” says Kate Allen, who graduated from Butler in 2015 and now lives in Indianapolis. “Typically, I am bad luck for Butler, so I am always skeptical, but today they certainly proved me wrong. This was my first tournament game in person and it was amazing.” Some of their friends who live in Chicago already had St. Patrick’s Day plans on Saturday. After Butler beat Arkansas, they hit the road to drive back to Chicago and plan on returning to Detroit for Sunday’s game.
“The tournament atmosphere is just so exciting,” Eastman says. “It is so great to see all the fans. The fact that we are going up against Purdue adds another level of excitement, for sure. We need to prove our worth after the Crossroads Classic loss and I think we are definitely ready for that comeback game.”