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JP Macura and Remy Abell lead a balanced attack as Xavier knocks off Butler... again

The bench mob leads Xavier past Butler as the Muskies bounce back from the Creighton debacle.

Coach Mack's face is our only comment on the officiating.
Coach Mack's face is our only comment on the officiating.
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

What happened: Xavier 74 - Butler 57

Where to start with that one? Xavier kind of drowsed through the first 9 or so minutes of the game, getting dominated in the paint and on the glass and going down as many as nine as Butler fans in Hinkle got loud, no doubt anticipating a season-saving win. Then Xavier flipped the switch and closed the half on a 30-8 run that pretty much smothered the life out of the Bulldogs.

The game pivoted on the defensive end, but Xavier's offense got it going by getting back to what has been working all year. Xavier got really clean looks from behind the arc by first getting the ball into the paint. Sean O'Mara got a couple of good buckets inside, which spurred the whole attack making its way into the paint. Xavier ended the game with 36 points in the paint after having just 2 halfway into the first half. Once the Muskies started getting inside, the arc was so open that X shot 8-11 from deep in the first half.

The game is a lot of fun when you play it well, and JP was having as much fun as anyone today. He went for 13/2/2 on 5-8/3-5/0-0 shooting. He was his usual antagonistic self for all 25 minutes he was in the game, but he reached Peak JP with 10 seconds left when he stole an errant Butler outlet. I'll let video tell the story:

Remy Abell was the other big story here. After a complete no-show against Creighton, he burst to life early and posted a 12/1/1 line on 5-8/1-3/1-1 shooting, including a couple of really nice finishes with his left hand. He also harangued Kelli Dunham into 9/1/1 on 3-8/2-5/1-2 shooting. This was the Remy we saw last year, and I hope it's the one we see down the stretch this season.

The Butler defense had nobody who could stay in front of Edmond Sumner, and he consistently collapsed them on his way to 12/4/3 on 4-6/0-0/4-4 shooting. His line doesn't reflect how influential he truly was; his drives got the Butler defense into rotations that consistently led to clean looks two or three passes later. He's still growing into his game, but he had the Bulldogs on skates all day.

It's a testament to how deep Xavier is that a couple of presumptive key players could be fairly quiet in a comfortable win. Trevon Bluiett was forced into a couple of shots he didn't want to take late in the shot clock, and his shooting line of 5-12/1-5/0-1 en route to 11/4/1 was unspectacular to say the least. Jalen Reynolds was the victim of an unfriendly whistle, and he played just 8 minutes and went for 6 and 4. X made it work anyway.

The most encouraging thing to come out of this game was the defensive performance. Xavier took an offense that ranks in the top ten nationally in adjust efficiency and held it to .814 points per possession. That number would rank last in the nation, just in case you need some context. It wasn't turnover-forcing gimmickry from Xavier, either. They forced just 9 turnovers but held Butler to 22-66/8-22/5-8 shooting and locked down the glass in the second half. This was a vintage performance for the Muskies' defense at a time when the fanbase really needed to see one.

Dad's take

First half:
-"Big game for X."
-"We cannot afford to lay another egg. KenPom will drop us like a bad habit."
-"Jones is tubby."
-"Giving up layups, no defense, can't rebound..."
-"If we miss our next 19 threes, we'll still have shot better than we did last game."
-"Myles can't stay with anyone... he can shoot though."
-"This type of game is more to Remy's liking."
-"What game are these refs watching?"
-"LAJ did a pretty good job. Definitely helps on defense. He's no Dee Davis yet; I loved that guy!"

Second half:
-"What is tubby complaining about? He was laying on him."
-"Dunham was barely touched and he acts like he was shot."
-"JP got smacked on that shot."
-"Nice dish by Ed, but James wasn't looking."
-"Ed wasted Dunham!"
-"Jones was called? That ref's last game at Butler."
-"JP! Uncalled for, but very cool! He apparently does not appreciate Butler's style of play."
-"That was how we need to play. They fell behind but did not panic and then choked the life out of the opponent."