Xavier overcame a 10-point margin over the final four minutes to take a 70-69 win over Butler Sunday afternoon at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati. Naji Marshall’s made free throw with 3.2 seconds to play proved to be the difference as Butler’s attempt at the buzzer fell short.
With the win, Xavier improves to 11-7 overall and 3-2 in BIG EAST play. Butler is now 10-7 (1-3 in conference).
“It’s a tough one to swallow because our guys had great spirit and great energy, and we didn’t come out of here with a win,” said Butler coach LaVall Jordan. “Xavier won the game with its rebounding in the second half. We did a good job defensively; we just have to complete those possessions with a rebound. I fully believe in this group and what they’re capable of. It’s a heck of a league and we have a lot of season to go.”
Butler closed the first half on a 14-3 run to take a 31-26 halftime advantage. That momentum carried over in the second half as Butler hit five of its first seven attempts, building a 45-33 lead with 15:17 to play.
Xavier scored 12 of the next 14 points to pull within two at 47-45 with 12:01 remaining. Butler then made four of its next five attempts from behind the arc to put the lead back to 64-54 with 5:21. Empty possessions on both sides would carry that score to the under-4 media timeout.
Xavier would go on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 66-66 with 1:22 to play.
Kamar Baldwin took the lead back for Butler, completing a three-point play, but a Kyle Castlin three-pointer tied the game back up with 53.2 seconds to go. After a missed shot by Butler, Xavier had the ball with 33 seconds to play. Marshall dribbled most of the time away before attacking the rim. He was fouled and made his second free throw to take the lead for the Musketeers.
Butler inbounded the ball after a timeout with 3.2 seconds to play and got to the top of the key, but a contested three-pointer was no good as Xavier escaped with the win.
Baldwin led the Bulldogs with 18 points and seven assists, while Paul Jorgensen and Jordan Tucker came off the bench to add 14 and 12 points, respectively. The Bulldogs shot 47.3 percent from the field, including 56 percent in the second half.
Xavier was led by Paul Scruggs with 23 points, going 5-for-8 from three-point range. Marshall had 14 for the Musketeers and Castlin added 14. Xavier had a 40-29 rebounding advantage and shot 13 more free throws than Butler.
The Bulldogs continue life on the road Wednesday, traveling to DePaul for an 8:30 p.m. (Eastern; 7:30 Central/Chicago) tip. That game will air nationally on FS1 and concludes a stretch of three straight games for the Bulldogs away from Hinkle Fieldhouse.