Xavier-Butler Preview

BY foxsports • February 12, 2016

The offensive numbers that built Xavier's longest conference winning streak in five years disappeared quickly this week. The fifth-ranked Musketeers' Big East hopes might vanish, too, if they don't rediscover their shooting touch soon.

A suddenly cold Xavier will try to rebound from a disappointing loss when it visits streaking Butler on Saturday.

The Musketeers (21-3, 9-3) are the top-scoring team in Big East play at 78.1 points per game, and they averaged 85 while shooting 48.2 percent during a five-game win streak Jan. 23-Feb. 6 - the program's longest in the conference since the end of 2010-11.

The run was capped by last weekend's 90-82 victory over Marquette in which Xavier shot 50.8 percent and made 13 of 20 from 3-point range. That 65 percent mark from beyond the arc is the best by a Big East team since November 2014.

It was the Musketeers' ineptitude from long range, though, that sank them three days later. An abysmal 1-for-21 performance during Tuesday's 70-56 loss at Creighton marked the program's lowest 3-point percentage (4.8) since it went 0 for 15 in a 65-64 overtime win over Dayton on Feb. 2, 2000.

Sophomore guard Trevon Bluiett jumped on the scene by averaging 17.9 points in the previous nine games, including 23 while making 5 of 6 from long range against the Golden Eagles, but he went 0 for 6 against the Bluejays and finished with four points.

"I really felt like there was no readiness to play on our part," coach Chris Mack said. "We were miserable from 3. It's hard to overcome a 1-for-21 shooting night from the 3-point line. But it was our readiness to play, our lack of readiness to play, that ultimately put Creighton on top."

And in the process it hindered Xavier's chances for the Big East's top spot. The Musketeers trail two-time defending champion and top-ranked Villanova by two games with six to play, including a Feb. 24 matchup in Cincinnati.

First, Xavier will try to get back to its winning ways on the road, where it had won four straight before falling to 6-2 with Tuesday's loss.

The Musketeers have won three straight in this series and eight of 10 dating to December 2010, though both losses came in Indianapolis - where Butler is 10-2.

In this season's first matchup, the Musketeers turned to an unlikely source to pick up their first conference win. Senior guard Remy Abell averages just 5.8 points and hasn't scored in the last two games, but he had a career-high 21 in a 88-69 win Jan. 2.

That was the beginning of an offensive lull for the Bulldogs (17-7, 6-6), who shot 41.4 percent during a 3-5 conference stretch that lasted through January.

Butler, though, has shot 51.5 percent and averaged 85.7 points in three wins since.

Senior Roosevelt Jones became the first Bulldogs player since 1983-84 to record a triple-double with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in last weekend's 89-56 win at St. John's, and sophomore Kelan Martin had 23 points and 10 boards in Wednesday's 81-75 victory at Seton Hall.

Still, the Bulldogs know they're far away from talk of the NCAA Tournament.

"We are definitely not walking into a tournament of that caliber the way we are now," said senior Kellen Dunham, who had 18 points Wednesday. "We're approaching it that we are going to fight our way to get a chance to play in that tournament, that's the goal for most teams."

in this topic

share story