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Xavier v. Butler: Breakdown/Highlights

After starting out slowly on defense, Xavier rounded into form in the second half and slowly choked Butler out of the game.

Semaj Christon scored almost at will at times against Butler today.
Semaj Christon scored almost at will at times against Butler today.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

What happened: Xavier 79 - Butler 68

After the first half, Xavier was trailing 42-37 and playing fairly porous defense. In the second half, the Musketeers rose to the challenge and slowly choked the life out of Butler. The Bulldogs shot 14-23/4-7/10-15 in the first half, but X held them to 9-29/2-10/6-9 with 6 turnovers the rest of the way. Kellen Dunham in particular wanted nothing to do with Dee Davis in the second half. Dunham drew a couple of early fouls on Dee and was able to put up 9 points in the first. With Dee back on the floor, Dunham was good for exactly 2 second-half points and simply didn't have it in him to get buckets when Butler needed them.

Speaking of Dee Davis, he was good for all 12 of his points in the game in the second half. His only field goal attempt of the first half was a missed three, but he rallied to end the game with 12/0/1 on 4-6/2-3/2-2 shooting with a steal and a turnover. It wasn't his most dynamic game as a distributor, but he was stuck to Kellen Dunham wherever he went when Butler was on offense, and Dee's efforts on both ends were a big part of the second-half turnaround for Xavier.

Brad mentioned in the preview that he felt Semaj was primed for a big game today, and he was absolutely correct. With the team sputterring in the first half, Semaj sprung to life to the tune of 16 points on 5-9 shooting. Even though it seemed clear at that point that nobody on Butler's roster could stay in front of him on offense, Christon was more deferential to his teammates in the second half, but he was still the best player on the floor, ending with 20/2/8, 3 steals, and a block on 7-14/0-2/6-7 shooting. Also, he had no turnovers to go with his eight dimes for the second straight game.

It's a familiar refrain, but Stainbrook was once again comfortable in his role as option 1B for X today. He played 35 minutes and posted 17/7/4 with 2 blocks on 7-12/0-0/3-4 shooting. It has been a long time since Xavier had a primary post player who could kick out this well, but Stainbrook is making nothing but great decisions with the basketball right now. What a pickup he was for this program.

Both Justin Martin and Isaiah Philmore came on strong in the second half for the Muskies. Good JMart was in the house today, and he finished the game with 13/7/1 with a steal on 4-9/1-2/4-5 shooting (and a technical foul). Philmore was the odd man out for a while, but he was nails down the stretch and came up with 9/6/1 on 3-3/0-0/3-4 shooting, including a dunk with 1.8 seconds left on the clock after Butler was unable to catch up to the ball to foul a Muskie. A Butler fan on Twitter told me that the Bulldogs will remember that when Xavier visits Hinkle, but I basically don't care. Butler couldn't hang, and Philmore wanted them to know that.

Ultimately, though, it was all about zipping them up. With 8:02 on the clock, Butler tied the game at 62. From that point forward, Xavier held them to 6 points on 2-11/1-5/1-3 shooting with 3 turnovers. After an uncharateristicly poor defensive showing, Xavier simply got tougher and tougher at that end of the floor as the game progressed. By the time Isaiah Philmore was adding the exclamation point via dunk with 1.8 seconds left, the arena crew was already lining up behind the Butler bench with body bags.

Odds and ends:
-Xavier's bench scored 8 points today, which is not spectacular for a team with good depth.

-Erik Stenger was back, which was nice to see.

-The Musketeers were 20-24 from the free throw line; remember how bad they were at the start of the year?

-Kellen Dunham ended the game with 11 on 3-10/2-5/3-6 shooting and also had 5 TO.

Dad's take:
-"Going to a memorial service, so I'll join the game at halftime."
-"Just starting the second half; is Butler good this year?"
-"JMart for the lead?! All Big-East!"
-"Love that Dee Davis, what a baller!" (ed. note: glad my dad missed Dee's two first half fouls, because he would have had a stroke)
-"Dime from Semaj to JMart. Semaj seems much more comfortable not having to shoulder every possession."
-"Nice reverse from Stain; needed to get to his left hand. Dee with a sweet reverse; I think he can use both hands."
-"Sweet Music does seem a touch slow on defense."
-"62 all."
-"Sweet dime from Semaj to Davis. He seems very composed today."
-"JMart is calling for the ball. Stay calm, son."
-"Stain is just the man."
-"Nice of Phil to gorilla dunk with 1.8 to go! A little payback for that debacle in Indy with the clock."
-"What I saw, they really looked good today. That was fun to watch."

That's it from me. We'll be back tomorrow with the Sunday Conversation and Brad's recap. Still undefeated in Big East play, in 2014, and on the mainland. So long for now.