NEW YORK -- The first Big East Tournament quarterfinal of the evening session saw Butler facing Xavier. The Bulldogs swept the regular season series against the Musketeers. The axiom regarding the difficulty in beating a team three times in one year applied tonight, as Xavier edged Butler, 62-57, to reach their fourth straight Big East semifinal and deny Butler yet another chance to win their first Big East Tournament game. In victory, Xavier improved to 21-12, while Butler is 23-8.
First five possessions:
Butler: Field goal, shot clock violation, missed field goal, one free throw, missed field goal
Xavier: Field goal, field goal, turnover, missed field goal, missed field goal
The 4-3 Xavier lead with 16:39 remaining in the opening stanza suggested a moderate pace and a start Xavier needed. Both teams ran half court sets early.
First half observations: No sooner does Xavier force a turnover and get out in transition than they go back to a half court offense, as the numbers are not in their favor. Both teams use a lot of motion and off-ball movement. They will also use something rarely seen these days: An active post. A three-pointer at the buzzer gave Butler a 30-26 halftime lead.
Possessions: Xavier 27, Butler 28
Offensive efficiency: Xavier 96, Butler 107
Second half observations: The first four minutes of the second half saw Xavier outscore Butler by a 7-2 count. With 16 minutes left, the Musketeers had a 33-32 lead. Good starts in the second half is always important, and this one was crucial for the Musketeers, who trailed by two possessions and needed to get off on the right foot to open the final half.
Butler hits a three to go up seven at the 12-minute mark. Xavier promptly hits a three on the next possession. Chris Mack’s club is not going away by any stretch. Butler zoned after grabbing that aforementioned seven-point lead, and outside of Xavier answering with a three, the zone proved to be effective.
Execution. It may sound trite, but the style both these teams are playing; as well as the competitiveness of this affair, all point to execution as the deciding factor.
Possessions: Xavier 63, Butler 60
Offensive efficiency: Xavier 98, Butler 95
Effective field goal percentage: Xavier 52, Butler 47
Free throw rate: Xavier 56, Butler 33
Offensive rebound percentage: Xavier 30, Butler 23
Turnover rate: Xavier 27, Butler 18
Leading scorers and effectiveness factors:
Xavier: Trevon Bluiett, 23 points (EF 28)
Butler: Kelan Martin, 15 points (EF 22)
What Xavier did well: Rebound. They led in offensive rebounding percentage and 31-26 in raw rebounding numbers.
What Butler did well: Force turnovers. Xavier had a high turnover rate, and the Bulldogs capitalized with an 18-12 edge in points off turnovers.
Ball control index: Xavier .882, Butler 1.73
Despite the turnover numbers, Xavier coach Chris Mack felt the Musketeers took care of the ball in the final few minutes. Malcolm Bernard, in Mack’s estimation, played his best game of the year. The fifth-year senior swingman scored 12 points, which he augmented by pulling down a game-high 10 rebounds.
Trevon Bluiett had an excellent game for Xavier. His effectiveness, though, was hindered by four turnovers. The score was tied ten times and the lead changed on 13 occasions, a microcosm of the competitiveness of this meeting.
Butler coach Chris Holtmann’s team has now dropped two straigh, including the regular season finale against Seton Hall. Prior to that, they won five of six, most notably a triumph at The Pavilion over Villanova. A win in New York could have been a seeding boost come Selection Sunday.
Postgame Quotes (courtesy of ASAP Sports) Xavier