Musketeers Take Down Butler for Second Time
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier survived 3-17 shooting from 3 point range-Early foul trouble for PG Paul Scruggs and some shaky defense over the final 10 minutes to dispose of Butler 68-66 Wednesday at Cintas. X improves to 16-5 overall and 6-4 BIG EAST-That's 5th place. Marquette(7-4, 4th place) is playing a late game vs Villanova(9-2 2nd place) in Milwaukee. Muskies led by 15(49-34) w/ 10 minutes left thanks to sticky defense and dead eye close-in shooting then BU started doing dribble drive damage compounded by XU fouls and some lazy mistakes. Butler made a "3" at the buzzer so in essence it was not a cliff hanger but definitely too close for comfort.
Travis Steele was not a happy camper:
"I hate it when you win and you don't feel like you won. Careless ball handling-Oh-lay defense-missing FTs-fouling on their drives all contributed to the sloppy finish."
Xavier did start well despite Scruggs playing just 4 1st half minutes. Butler heated up late 1st half and a Jerome Hunter "3" gave XU a 29-26 halftime lead. Their last + opening half in 7 games. X basically got any shot they wanted inside the arc-lay-ups-dunks-post up moves in the lane.
Zach Freemantle finished well inside(7-8 from "2") and added a pair of "3s" for 23 points.
Travis on #32:
"He's gaining confidence and rhythm. We forget-fans and even us coaches-how hard it is to regain that form after sitting out 4 months. Zach is so hard on himself. We're glad he's back to being himself as a player."
Muskie's scrappy defense prompted Butler guards Aaron Thompson and Chuck Harris to take frustration technical fouls. X canned 4 FTs and scored on the following possessions. The "D" was really good for maybe 32 minutes.
Steele attributed the decent game start to better shot selection:
"We are understanding where the ball needs to go. We got the ball to the paint consistently. Our turnovers and rebounding have been good the 1st two 4 minute wars. It's been bad quick shots that have cost us That was better tonight, but we gotta finish a lot better. That's on me. We will watch a ton of tape and this type of thing will never happen again!!"
XU is now 1-0 in February w/ DePaul at Cintas Saturday afternoon(2 PM-FS1). NCAA NET is a robust 18. Xavier may add a 5th NET Quad 1 win Thursday AM when NET is revised. Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech Wednesday. VT's NET may rise to 50 or better. X beat VT on a neutral floor in Brooklyn so Top 50 is a Quad 1. Not many teams have 5 Quad 1 wins plus XU has played 10 Quad 1s w/ no bad losses.
The NCAA Committee reveals its preliminary Top 16 list next Friday-a month before Selection Sunday. X might make that group w/ games vs DePaul home-then at Seton Hall next Wednesday and home vs UConn a week from Friday. SHU and UConn are NET Quad 1 Games.
Special kudos to hustling Adam Kunkel. He won the Junkyard Dog Chain for the Butler game w/ 7 points and 7 rebounds and boundless floor game effort.