Butler blows late 10-point lead, falls 70-69 to Xavier

Kamar Baldwin had 18 points for Butler.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI — Things weren’t looking good for Xavier at the last media timeout, with the Musketeers trailing by 10 points and struggling to make shots. Coach Travis Steele reminded the Musketeers that they were capable of an improbable rally.

Paul Scruggs scored 23 points while leading another big comeback, and Naji Marshall made a free throw with 3.2 seconds left, sending the Musketeers to a 70-69 victory over Butler on Sunday.

Down by 10 points with 4 minutes left, the Musketeers (11-7, 3-2 Big East) went on a closing 16-5 spurt that featured Scruggs’ fifth 3-pointer , a career high. Scruggs moved to the point guard spot with Quentin Goodin injured and had a team-high eight rebounds with six assists in 40 minutes.

“I was just feeling it today,” Scruggs said. “My teammates helped me out a lot.”

The Musketeers overcame a 17-point deficit and beat Georgetown 81-75 at the Cintas Center on Wednesday. It was on their minds as they pulled off another double-digit rally Sunday.

“I told our guys during the last TV timeout: ‘Hey, I’ve been in games in Cintas where we’ve been down by more than this, so play as hard as you can and see what happens,'” Steele said. “Our guys made big-time plays at the end.”

Butler (10-7, 1-3) led by 12 points early in the second half and by 10 at the final media timeout but managed only two baskets and a free throw the rest of the way. With the score tied 69-69, Paul Jorgensen missed a 3-point shot, giving Xavier its final chance.

Marshall was fouled while driving to the basket with 3.2 seconds left, missed the first free throw and made the second. Butler’s Kamar Baldwin came up short on a tipped 3-point shot at the buzzer and finished with 18 points.

“When your guys play with that much spirit and that much energy and don’t come out with a victory, it’s hard to swallow,” coach LaVall Jordan said.

BIG PICTURE

Butler: The Bulldogs came in allowing only 66.8 points per game, second-best in the Big East, but couldn’t hold down Xavier as their lead slipped away in the closing minutes. The Musketeers hit their last three field-goal attempts to pull it out.

Xavier: The Musketeers overcame another round of poor 3-point shooting. They make only 32 percent from beyond the arc and went 7 of 28 on Sunday. Scruggs was 5 of 8, the rest of the team 2 of 20. Kyle Castlin made his only 3-pointer of the game during the closing run.

NO Q

Goodin also missed the win over Georgetown with an injured right knee, forcing Scruggs to move to the point for the entire game. Goodin missed two games earlier this season with a shoulder injury and an illness.

SERIES STUFF

Xavier leads the series 41-20 and has won four in a row and 13 of the last 17. The Musketeers have a 10-3 edge since both teams joined the Big East. Butler’s last win in the series was 88-79 at the Cintas Center on Feb. 26, 2017.

TEED UP

Xavier’s Tyrique Jones and Butler’s Sean McDermott got technical fouls for an exchange. Steele also got a technical early in the second half as Butler was pulling out to its 12-point lead.

BOARD DOMINATION

Xavier had a 40-29 edge in rebounds that included 17 offensive rebounds, four each by Jones and Zach Hankins.

I KNOW YOU

Scruggs and Butler’s Joey Brunk were teammates at Indianapolis Southport High School. Steele graduated from Butler in 2004.

UP NEXT

Butler: Plays at DePaul on Wednesday, the second of three straight road games for the Bulldogs.

Xavier: Plays at Villanova on Friday. Villanova has won four straight and 10 of 11 in the series.