No. 8 Xavier Holds Off Butler
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Butler trimmed an 18-point deficit to four in the first six minutes of the second half, but No. 8 Xavier, behind 95% free throw shooting, held on and handed the Bulldogs a 73-61 setback at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Wednesday, Dec. 7. The setback was Butler's second to a "Top 10" team in the first nine games this season.
The unbeaten Musketeers (7-0) took advantage of some early shooting woes by the Bulldogs and jumped to a 27-9 lead. The margin was 16 at halftime, 39-23, and a basket by center Kenny Frease one minute into the second half made it 41-23.
But that's when the Bulldogs (4-5) turned in their best stretch of the game. Fueled by freshman Roosevelt Jones and junior Chase Stigall, Butler exploded on a 16-2 run to cut Xavier's lead to 43-39. Jones and Stigall each had six points in the run, while junior Andrew Smith added four.
The lead remained four at 45-41 with 13:41 remaining, but the Musketeers took advantage of some hot free throw shooting to return the margin to double-digits. Xavier hit 18 of 19 (94.7%) attempts from the charity stripe in the final 20 minutes and 29 of 37 (78.4%) for the game.
"Obviously, we were markedly better in the second half," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens. "I thought defensively we were pretty good all night when we set our defense, but we had too many decision that led to points for them in transition, whether it was turnovers or quick shots or bad shots, or whatever the case may be."
Butler trailed 58-50 when Jones (left), Butler's leading scorer at the time, went to the floor with leg cramps. Xavier responded with a 10-0 scoring run to match its biggest lead of the game.
"He cramped up late, but he's going to be fine and that's good," stated Stevens. "Obviously he's going to be an important part of us going forward."
Jones finished with his first collegiate double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, despite not playing the final 7:45. The 6-4 guard also matched his career-high with three assists in the game.
Stigall shared Butler's scoring lead with 10 points, and he matched his career-high with six rebounds.
Preseason All-American Tu Holloway and junior Mark Lyons each scored 16 points to pace the Musketeers. Hollway hit just one of seven shots from the floor, but added 14 of 16 from the free throw line. Lyons was eight of eight at the charity stripe.
The Bulldogs, paced by Jones and freshman Kameron Woods (8), out-rebounded the rangy Musketeers, 39-38.
Butler begins a stretch of four consecutive games away from Hinkle Fieldhouse at Ball State on Saturday, Dec. 10. That game will tip at 2 p.m. (ET).