At one point in time Butler had a 21-12 lead and Xavier was struggling to find its footing. Then the defense picked up, then the offense picked up, then the "let's go X!" chants started ringing through the rafters at Hinkle as the traveling Xavier faithful watched the #5 team in the nation overmatch Butler.
Defense starts this team
Nine minutes into the game, Xavier had 13 points and was looking as lethargic as they did Tuesday against Creighton. Then Xavier turned up the defensive intensity and held Butler to 8 points in 11 minutes, closing the half on a 30-8 run to silence a previously excited Hinkle crowd. The scoring explosion was the product of Xavier locking down on the defensive end and getting the ball into the lane on offense. When the Muskies start to smother an opponent, it really seems to spark the offensive attack.
Bench depth is key
Aside from the seven guys who can start, Xavier is fortunate to have three excellent role players on the roster. Kaiser Gates is an NBA-style three-and-D guy who can also board it a little. Sean O'Mara is a post scorer who can spell Farrnolds and be relied upon not to do anything stupid on either end. LAJ can reliably control the offense, make one inexplicable turnover, and hound the opposing point guard for 10 or so minutes per game. With seven guys who could claim a spot in the starting five, having three dudes who can jump in a fill a specific need is a massive bonus.
James Farr doesn't need to score to control the game
Big Game James wasn't getting a lot of touches on the post today, but he was instrumental in Xavier's zipping up of the Butler Bulldogs. As Xavier's defense forced Butler into some long jumpers, Farr was grabbing every dang thing that came off the rim. Butler gets away with a lot in the middle, but they didn't have any answers for Farr's physical dominance in the paint. A stop isn't a stop until the rebound is secured, and James Farr secures rebounds like nobody's business.