At times this game looked like way too many games we've seen out of Xavier this year. The Muskies started both halves slowly, making the same errors we've seen since November. They were missing assignments on defense that led to clean looks at the rim, getting beaten to loose balls and rebounds, and taking bad shots early in the shot clock. Both times though, they managed to knuckle down and slowly drag themselves back into the game. It wasn't always pretty, but it was just effective enough in the end for Xavier to get that all-important 20th win that will let us all breathe a little easier on Selection Sunday.
Today's leader in field goal attempts for Xavier was Dee Davis. That's normally not a great sign when your pass-first point guard does that, but Dee was in Lionel Chalmers Lite mode today, shooting 5-10/2-3/1-1 on his way to 13/3/4 with 2 turnovers. He drove aggressively and was able to finish (occasionally), even drawing a key foul on Kellen Dunham with nice little lefty scoop shot in OT. This Dee Davis is playing like he doesn't want to go home, and I like it.
Jalen Reynolds was a monster once again constrained by his own unyielding passion for fouling. He finished the night with 12/6/0 on 5-6/0-0/2-3 shooting. When he got touches, Butler simply didn't have an answer for him. Of course, the one way to stop Jalen is just hang around until he fouls out, and Butler successfully executed that strategy tonight. Dang it, Jalen. If he ever stops fouling, he'll average 19 and 8.
Like pizza and carnal relations within the bounds of a loving marriage, Trevon Bluiett is pretty good even when he's bad. He took a long time to join the game as anything other than a passenger and didn't shoot particularly well, but he stuck a couple of big threes on his way to 11/6/2 on 3-9/2-3/3-7 shooting with 3 turnovers. He also had 2 steals and played some clutch defense down the stretch after Jalen departed. Getting blocked by Roosevelt Jones isn't a career highlight but at least it will be something to joke about rather than something that cost X the game.
I feel obligated to say something about my guy James Farr, mostly because he has voiced the opinion that I don't think he's my guy at all, and that's not true. He had 0/5/0 on 0-1/0-1/0-1 shooting, and his three missed by a margin usually reserved for field goals in football. What he did effectively tonight was give Xavier an edge when they were being out-toughed on both ends of the floor. He throws his body into the fray to go after rebounds; he didn't grab any offensive boards tonight, but he forced Butler to account for him at a time when few other Muskies were doing that.
A guy who did get some offensive rebounds was Matt Stainbrook. He went for 13/10/1 with a block on 5-8/0-0/3-4 shooting. He had 4 turnovers in part because Andrew Chrabascz was doing a good job of making him post well off the block, but he was able to get buckets and Xavier's offense was much more effective when run through him. His last offensive board was off of a missed free throw with Xavier up 3 and 1:40 left on the clock. By the time that possession he created ended, X was up 5 with 1:05 left and the writing was on the wall for Butler.
JP Macura started. It didn't go well.
Myles once again struggled with his shooting - 4-10/1-5/4-4 - but he was nails from the free throw line at a couple of times when Xavier needed it and he's really starting to fill that Dante Jackson role of the guy who pulls everyone together on the floor and tells the what it is. His line of 13/2/2 with no turnovers isn't bad, but it's his developing leadership that is going to be something to track going forward for this team.
Odds and ends:
-Xavier shot 14-23 (60.9%) from the line; bad.
-Butler shot 10-19 (52.6%) from the line; also bad.
-Xavier had a 72.5% DReb% and a 23% OReb%; against a team that rebounds like Butler, I'll take it.
-X had 10 assists on 24 made buckets; a lot of credit for that goes to Butler's defense, but that's still not a good number.
-On to the next one.
Xavier will play Georgetown tomorrow at 9:30pm. We'll have you covered from stem to stern for the entire remainder of the Big East tournament and all day Selection Sunday.