I'll let you guys in on a secret here, the game isn't over yet and I'm already working on the recap. I know that compromises my journalistic integrity, but this is dead and buried. (Much like Hinkle Fieldhouse should be). What's more impressive, and more important for Xavier, is that this has been a complete and comprehensive win. What the Musketeeers had to do tonight was come out and stomp on an opponent and they did exactly that.
Xavier grabbed the lead 1-0 after Semaj Christon (15/4/3) converted a free throw that came after two consecutive offensive rebounds. That was, essentially, the story of the game for the next 39 minutes. Xavier's bigs just dominated on the glass today. The actual margin was only 10, but when the game was in the balance, Matt Stainbrook (6/9/2) and Isaiah Philmore (10/5/2) took what they pleased, especially on the offensive end. Early on, it looked like it would be Stainbrook's game to dominate. The big man from the best city in the state had a bucket, an assist, and two offensive rebounds in the first four minutes of the game.
It wasn't Matt's game to run away with though, because Dee Davis (9/3/9) took it upon himself to punch Butler in the mouth before the Bulldogs could get themselves into the game. Dee came into this contest having not made a three pointer since the win over Georgetown a month ago. In a six minute stretch tonight that begin with Xavier holding a 13-10 lead, Dee buried three threes, including one off the bounce from directly in front of the Bulldog bench. Butler dragged themselves back within four after that, but Dee faked a three and found Myles Davis (3/2/0) and right before the half Semaj Christon rose and made the lead nine.
The Butler of years back may have risen to the challenge, but this year's squad was ready to walk through the next 20 minutes at barn and get back to the dorms. Immediately after the break Dee found Stainbrook for a layup and the lead was in double digits, where it would stay until the conclusion of the game. Butler never rallied, never showed any spirit, never fought back at all. In the preview I mentioned that Butler hadn't capitulated yet this year. Well, tonight they did. Brandon Miller has to be furious with the mostly gutless way his team threw in the towel tonight.
Chief among the underachievers was Kellen Dunham. Dunham was a media darling in the start of the season, but you wouldn't know that based on the two games he's played against Xavier. Dee Davis has drawn Dunham both times and, despite giving up at least six inches, he's completely locked down Butler's leading scoring. Tonight Dunham scored two points on 1-10 from the floor, traveled the first two times he touched the ball, and factored in the game exactly none. That leaves Dunham with 13 points on 4-20 from the floor the two times he's faced Xavier this year. Dee gives up a good deal of size but more than made up for it with excellent positioning and superior quickness. It really was the junior's night tonight.
Once Xavier took that double digit lead, they didn't let up. A team that has struggled to kill off games all year had no such issues tonight. The Musketeers ripped off a 17-2 run to start the second half. That, combined with the five quick points at the end of the first half, pushed the lead out to 24 at 48-24. In the first eight minutes of the second half, Butler scored two points. In that time they went 1-9 from the floor, missed two free throws, and turned the ball over three times. Xavier reverted to devastating form and just simply zipped Butler up rather than let them limp through the rest of the game. Fans have been begging for the team to just smash someone, and tonight they did. Butler had not one single answer for the Musketeers active defense
With eight minutes left Justin Martin (9/2/0) viciously threw down a contested one handed dunk and then hung on the rim, oscillating, so the Hinkle could drink it all in. Looking sufficiently casual even for his own markedly nonchalant standards, Martin dropped and received his technical. If he cared it wasn't readily apparent, and even Coach Mack didn't look all that annoyed. Somehow, the power of the dunk and Butler's inability to do anything about it seemed to sum up the evening perfectly.
- What does Butler have left? On this evidence? Nothing. The Bulldogs get Creighton, Providence, and Seton Hall at barn, and go on the road to take on St. John's, Villanova, and DePaul. Two wins may be it for the Bulldogs in their inaugural Big East season. Honestly, I've watched a lot of basketball in the last 31 years, and I've not often seen a team quit like Butler did tonight.
- Is everyone ready to play? 22 points off the bench, nine each for Davis and Martin, and 53% from the floor. This team came to play tonight. It was especially encouraging to see Brandon Randolph (5/2/2) take, and jar, a three pointer in rhythm without taking any time to think about it. If he is willing to take that shot, he has a lot to bring to this team.
- Can Xavier score from deep? 6-13 from behind the arc. Butler has allowed teams to destroy them inside while defending the arc relatively well. Tonight, Xavier poured in buckets from everywhere. Dee was the main story, but Myles Davis, Brandon Randolph, and Justin Martin all knocked one down as well.
Tweet of the game:
@BannersParkway I knew he'd start hitting! No doubt in my mind! Lol— L Davis (@Lovemysuper11s) February 12, 2014
Dee's mom gets in on the celebration of her son tonight. I'm sure she's proud, and she should be,
@BannersParkway @DantejacksonXU Fist pump AND leg kick on the uneven surface. That's excitement and coordination.— Adam Maloney (@maloneyam34) February 12, 2014
Old Banners favorite Dante Jackson celebrated hard on a Semaj and one in the second half. Adam correctly points out that kind of commitment requires some athleticism.