What happened: Butler 67 - Xavier 62
Two teams with everything to play for came together at Hinkle, and Xavier left on the short end of the score. It's hard to say that X got well and truly outplayed. Butler having the home court advantage didn't help, and there was some dodgy officiating, but mostly Xavier couldn't quite get it going enough to create any spearation, and it cost them at the end.
One player who definitely came to play tonight was Isaiah Philmore. He didn't play in the first leg of this fixture back in Novemeber, but he made his presence felt today to the tune of 16/11/0 with 1 block and 0 turnovers on 7-12/0-0/2-2 shooting. Philmore got off to a slow start after his suspension, but he has really grown into his scholarship as the campaign has worn on. His breadth in the middle was a huge asset for Xavier today, and his post moves are now "patient" rather than "slow" since he's actually scoring off of them.
Semaj was able to play but limited by his bad elbow in November; he had no such limitation this time around. He was the best player on the floor for stretches tonight, ending the game with 20/2/5 with 2 steals and just 2 turnovers on 6-12/1-1/7-8 shooting. Christon is a freshman, in case you forgot, and in a game with Xavier's at-large chances on life support, he gave the Musketeers everything they could have asked for. His shooting has gotten progressively better as the season has gone on, and he showed a nice little pull-up floater on a couple of occasions to avoid charges. The sky is the limit for him if he continues to execute from the free throw line.
Travis Taylor was the victim of what can graciously be described as very physical defense from Butler by both his primary defender and on the double team, and he ended the night with just 6/8/1 with 1 steal and 3 turnovers on 3-13/0-0/0-0 shooting. The big man simply couldn't get it going tonight, and all of the help from his teammates couldn't make up for it. After his monster effort against Saint Louis, he was unable to put his imprint on this game. He has a few days to gather himself, because Xavier is going to need him to have it four times in four games in Brooklyn.
Erik Stenger was confusingly effective tonight, going 2-2/0-0/4-4 shooting on his way to 8/2/0 in just 8 minutes. He was active around the bucket and perfect from the free throw line, both of which have been absent from his game of late. He was able to pick up a block as well, but grabbed 3 fouls in his time on the floor. Hard to say too much about a 25% free throw shooter suddenly hitting four in a row, but his energy gave Xavier a huge boost when the game was threatening to run away from them.
Dee Davis hit a couple of threes but was otherwise fairly anonymous on the offensive end, going for 6/1/2 on 2-5/2-2/0-0 shooting. He has had a long, rough season, playing through all manner of injury and illness, and you can't help but wonder how much he has left in the tank at this point. He did put in a heck of a shift on the other end, though, chasing Rotnei Clarke into a fairly poor 5-14 performance from the floor and drawing 4 (!) offensive foul calls. I love Dee's effort and scrappiness (and Dee himself) even when the shots aren't coming his way on the offensive end.
Odds and ends:
-Justin Martin went 2-6 from the floor including 1-4 from deep and prompted one of our followers to tweet that he looks like he hates playing basketball. None of that is good in any way.
-Butler's starting bigs combined to go 4-12 from the floor, further illustrating how much of a brawl it was in the paint.
-Brad Redford had a couple of decent looks at threes and missed them both; I almost think he's a better shooter when the shot is more ridiculous.
-JRob played 21 minutes, shot one time, and went for 1/2/0. Brad hoped in the preview that JRob would show up for this one and make a difference on the glass; he didn't.
-Xavier outrebounded Butler, marking the 15th time in 16 conference games they achieved that feat. Good on these guys for their effort on the glass all year.
-"Bisons undefeated in league play this year."
-"Taylor is starting too far out on the post."
-"Martin is lost. Two fouls in twenty seconds."
-"It looks like a street fight inside; refs better get control. They're calling chippies but not muggings."
-"Rob got used. Now he has 2 fouls."
-"Red needs to hit."
-"What a half. This is going to be a dog fight."
-"Semaj, just lay it up. You can't dunk!"
-"Phil is playing like a man."
-"Taylor with his first bucket? Is that right?"
-"Red is off at both ends tonight."
-"The seniors must have left it on the floor Wednesday." (Note: the seniors combined for 7/12/1 on 3-16/0-3/0-0 with 5 TO, for what that's worth.)
-"We are too slow to step out on the screen. We are being abused."
-"Phil is a man possessed tonight!"
-"Stinking call on Stenger. He has to be allowed to hold his spot."
-"Taylor is killing me."
-"Taylor is having his way, he just can't finish."
-After Semaj picked his fourth: "Christon was just giving it to Martin there. Must have missed an assignment."
-"Bad call on Taylor. He was over him, but there was no contact. Trail official called it, and he was behind them! Sad."
-"This is painful. So close and so many chances."
-"Woods traveled and no call. Same guy who called Taylor for that cheap foul."
-"Stink. NIT, here we come."
After that result, Xavier will need four wins in four days in Brooklyn. They will start off against St. Joseph's on 3/14 at 9pm. If they win there, it will be VCU in the second round on 3/15 at 6:30pm. The winner of that game will face the three seed, which could be Temple or La Salle. Confused? Me too.
That it's from me (and my dad). Stay tuned for Brad's glimmering recap and the Sunday Conversation, then prepare yourselves to storm Brooklyn.