Butler Edges Xavier, 69-68

Sophomore Gordon Hayward hit a lay-up with 0:01.2 left on the clock to lift Butler to a 69-68 come-from-behind victory over visiting Xavier in a hard-fought, non-league game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday (Dec. 19).  The dramatic, game-winning play also set off a series of events that kept the outcome in doubt for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Hayward’s basket, following a loose ball scramble under the Butler basket, capped a comeback by the Bulldogs, who trailed much of the second half after leading by as many as 15 points in the first half.  The shot also became part of a controversial ending.

Games officials discovered that during Butler’s final possession the game clock erroneously stopped at 0:14.7.  After reviewing numerous replays and checking them with a stopwatch, it was determined that the clock had stopped for 0:01.3, before restarting.

Hayward’s shot was released at 0:01.8 and the ball went through the net at 0:01.2, when the clock was correctly stopped.  Because the original stoppage caused a loss of 0:01.3, that time was deducted from the remaining seconds, officially ending the game.

“It’s a hard way for a great game to be decided, there’s no doubt about it,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens of the ending.  “(The officials) thoroughly looked at it.  I haven’t seen a replay, so I can’t comment on a replay.”

“Right away, (the officials) came over and said that the clock had stopped at some point.  My first thought was I hope there was 1.2 or more left,” added the Butler coach.

The strange ending over-shadowed a terrific college basketball game, played in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 9,114.

The Bulldogs (8-3) showed no ill effects from a week off for final exams.  Hayward put the home team in front with a three-point field goal 38 seconds into the contest, starting a run that lifted Butler to an early 20-8 advantage.

That margin was stretched to 15 points on two occasions, the last coming at 32-17 on a three-point field goal by Hayward with 6:43 remaining in the first half.

But the Musketeers (6-4) closed the half on a 6-2 run to cut Butler’s halftime lead to 39-32, and the visitors then opened the second half with 11 straight points to take a 43-39 lead.  Xavier maintained the advantage, thanks largely to 69.6% shooting in the second half, until the final four minutes when the game was tied three times and had three lead changes.

Butler had a 65-64 lead with 1:51 left, but consecutive baskets by Jason Love and Jordan Crawford gave Xavier a 68-65 advantage with under a minute to play.  Sophomore Shelvin Mack hit a pair of free throws to cut Xavier’s margin to one point, 68-67, with 0:39 left and Hayward came up with a steal with 0:36 left to set up the final possession.

The final sequence started with a missed three-point field goal attempts by Willy Veasley with seven seconds remaining.  The ball rebounded long and Veasley, Hayward and a Xavier player converged on it.  Veasley popped the ball loose and shoveled to Hayward under the basket for the game-winning shot.

Hayward led four Butler players in double-figures with 22 points, and he grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds.  Mack finished with 14 points, Veasley had 13 and forward Matt Howard added 12.  Crawford led the Musketeers with 20 points, while Love added 14.

The Bulldogs will close out their pre-Christmas schedule with a road game at UAB on Tuesday, Dec. 22.