Xavier, Butler prepare for top 15 matchup (Jan 14, 2017)
INDIANAPOLIS -- Longtime rivals Butler and Xavier have a history dating to 1937, but lately Xavier has been in control.
"The fact of the matter is we haven't fared very well against them since we've been in the Big East," Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. "We're 1-6 against them. The reality of it is it's been somewhat one-sided since we've been in the Big East. Hopefully, we can prepare ourselves well for a really good team."
The No. 12 Bulldogs (14-3. 3-2 Big East) will host No. 15 Xavier (13-3, 3-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It's only the third time in the history of Hinkle that Butler and its opponent have both been ranked in the top 15 at game time.
The teams, who have met 55 times, are playing in their third league together, previously playing in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) and one year together in Atlantic 10.
Xavier coach Chris Mack has been impressed with the job Holtmann has done with a partially new cast.
"He's done an amazing job with a different nucleus," said Mack, whose team holds 37-18 all-time edge over Butler. "He's got a lot of new players and added fifth-year seniors and freshmen. I'm really impressed with how they've played at home and on the road. The game against Creighton was anomaly."
Both teams are coming off tough losses to other conference powers. No. 3 Villanova pounded Xavier 79-54 on Tuesday night. Butler lost 75-64 at No. 8 Creighton on Wednesday night.
Mack said teams have to focus as the task at hand.
"You can't look in the rear-view mirror," Mack said. "You hope you can learn from it, but most teams focus on the next practice or who is immediately in front of them."
"It necessary when you are in a power league, to have a short memory," Holtmann said. "It's not an easy thing to do because the losses can stay with you longer than the wins can. The reality is you are trying to keep a long-term approach as much as possible.
"If you've been a part of a good league or power league, you know each team is going to get beat up a number of times. The question is how we'll respond. We certainly got beat up (against Creighton) and it's not going to get any easier on Saturday and hopefully our guys understand that."
The Bulldogs trailed the Bluejays 47-27 at halftime. Creighton led by as many as 25 in the second half.
"Obviously, right now we're not good enough to go and play in that environment and beat a team that good," Holtmann said. "We'll see if we can improve and grow and learn from that experience."
Butler junior forward Kelan Martin, who leads the team with a 16.8-point scoring average, has struggled shooting in the past five games (20 of 66 from the field, including 6 of 27 from 3-point range).
"He's got to take better shots and let it come to him a little more," Holtmann said. "He's got to impact the game in other ways. He's frustrated with his inability to impact the game offensively and in some ways his inefficiencies has hurt our offense at times.
It's certainly not because he's not trying hard. He would like to perform better and we're doing everything we can to help him do that."