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Xavier zips up Butler down the stretch to right the ship in Big East play

When the chips were down, it was the defense that got Xavier across the finish line today.

This guy did it all for Xavier today.
This guy did it all for Xavier today.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

What happened: Xavier 88 - Butler 69

With 12:30 to play, Kellen Dunham hit a three from the corner to cut Xavier's lead to 55-52. The Muskies were fighting hard without Edmond Sumner, but Butler had rolled with every punch and twice reeled Xavier in from double-digit leads. Then the zipping up began. For the next eleven and a half minutes, Xavier held Butler to 2-16/0-3/7-11 with 2 turnovers. With the game on the line and 0-2 in the conference looming, the Musketeer defense clamped down on the offense that came into the game ninth in adjusted efficiency. The ending wrote itself.

Remy Abell was a big part of the team getting there. He was as efficient as you could hope, shooting 7-8/3-3/4-5 on his way to 21/1/4 with a block and no turnovers. He came out of the gates hot to set the tone for Xavier, then just kept getting big buckets in the second half as the Musketeers pulled away. He's not going to get 21 every game, but having him able to find openings on the floor and get his baskets is huge. It should also be noted that, while Kellen Dunham got 13 and broke his duck from deep, he was clearly having trouble whenever Remy was on him.

Xavier put five players into double figures in scoring, but James Farr wasn't one of them. All he did was go for 8/10/0 on 4-9/0-0/0-0 shooting. His offense wasn't great, but he was all over the glass on the offensive end and he protected the rim with four blocked shots. One of the few salient points made by the FS1 announcing crew was that Xavier's perimeter defenders were closing out confidently, knowing that James was behind them to help out if they got baked.

Myles was impressed into point guard duty today, and he acquitted himself admirably. He had 11/1/5 with just 2 turnovers and managed to get the team into the halfcourt with a minimum of fuss all day. His shooting line of 4-8/3-6/0-0 was a huge boost; after missing his first two threes, he came alive to bury big shots from behind the arc and punish a Butler defense that was often a step slow on the perimeter.

There was only one foul called on Jalen Reynolds today. Knowing that, it shouldn't surprise you to hear that he went for 13/8/1 with a block and a steal on 5-6/1-1/2-4 shooting. He was getting almost whatever he wanted on the block as a big-to-big double that Butler was running on James Farr didn't show up against Jalen. About the only thing that held him back was a lack of touches and having a couple of FTs rattle out on him. This is the Jalen we need.

The Kaiser Gates that we had seen in high school showed up a bit today, looking every bit the silky stretch four we though we were getting. He shot an immaculate 2-3/2-3/4-4 on the way to 10/5/0 on the game. Particularly big was his first three, as it helped push a Xavier lead that had just been down to three back into double digits. You wonder about the ceiling of a freshman who confidently steps into a big shot like that and finds bottoms. The sky is the limit for Kaiser.

Odds and ends:

  • Coach Mack had good things to say about LAJ, who had 2/2/4 with a couple of steals. His thought processes were still confusing at times, but you can't fault the man's effort.
  • Tim Stainbrook got onto the stat sheet with a thunderous block in garbage time.
  • Trevon shot 5-12/1-6/2-4 and ended up with 13/5/3, but he threw in a couple of blocks and a couple of steals and was really active on defense when Xavier was making that run to end the first half.
  • Xavier had 10 blocked shots as a team.

Dad's take:

First half:
-"JP, behind the back? Really?"
-"LAJ is not the answer."
-"Reynolds from three! Now that's the shot we want."
-"Farr has to score - rebounding well."
-"Need to play D; can't let this lead slip."
-"I don't like that Dunham very well."
-"This is much better than I hoped; need to play the second half with the same intensity."

Second half:
-"This job is getting in my way; I can't focus on the game!"
-"Need to be consistent on defense."
-"We are having a run of balanced scoring again. Good."
-"Farr has picked up the O this half."
-"Wideman was not much of a factor."
-"Remy is having a game..."
-"Wow, they have really turned it on."
-"Larry who? Oh, him."
-"Always good to beat them. Even better to really smoke them."

Thanks for reading. Xavier is back in action on Wednesday against St. John's. We'll be back significantly sooner. Drive safely, Xavier fans.