Baldwin dominates second half as Butler beats Xavier 83-78
INDIANAPOLIS -- Kamar Baldwin and No. 12 Butler just needed a little time to get going.
With his better-known teammates in foul trouble, the freshman guard emerged to score all 21 of his points in the second half and help the Bulldogs beat No. 15 Xavier 83-78 Saturday.
Baldwin had seven points during a decisive run, then capped his breakthrough game with a steal and two free throws with one second left.
"Did he not score in the first half?" surprised coach Chris Holtmann said before turning to Baldwin. "Wow, good job."
Perhaps Baldwin's big game should have been expected.
Since the Georgia product arrived on campus last fall, he has steadily progressed.
He finally cracked the starting lineup following a mid-December loss and scored in double figures in three of Butler's previous seven games. Now he's established career highs on successive Saturdays and had a major hand in helping the Bulldogs (15-3, 4-2 Big East) pad their already impressive resume by improving to 5-1 against ranked teams this season.
This time, they needed everything Baldwin could muster to snap a four-game losing streak against the Musketeers and extend their home-court winning streak to 13.
And as the soft-spoken Baldwin downplayed his feats, those around him knew why he thrived on the big stage.
"He's letting the game come to him a little more," Butler forward Andrew Chrabascz said after scoring 16 points. "He's adjusted to the game. Being a freshman and doing what he's doing and adjusting to the game is really incredible."
Even the usually stingy Musketeers (13-4, 3-2) couldn't figure out how to stop Baldwin -- or Butler -- in the second half.
Xavier led for all but 62 seconds in the first half and went to the locker room still up 31-25.
But the Bulldogs opened the second half on a 7-0 run and Baldwin's scoring flurry in the 9-2 spurt gave Butler a 53-45 lead that they never relinquished.
The Musketeers cut the deficit to one four times in the final minute, but the Bulldogs made their last 10 free throws, the last two coming after Baldwin's second steal of the game.
"I thought Butler really took it to us in the second half," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "They came down the lane, had a lot of uncontested layups and then we kept fouling them. And Butler is Butler -- they make their free throws.
Edmond Sumner had 22 points and J.P. Macura finished with 16 to lead Xavier.
Xavier: A week ago, the Musketeers were the last remaining unbeaten team in Big East play. Now, after maybe their toughest week of the season, Xavier is in the middle of the pack. The good news is they only have one more road game against the league's top best teams. The bad news: They're likely to slide at least a few spots when the new poll comes out Monday.
Butler: Seems to play its best ball against the best opponents. The Bulldogs already have knocked off the Big East's preseason favorites -- Villanova and Xavier -- in a 10-day span.
HOME, SWEET, HOME
The Bulldogs have made it tough on road teams for over two decades at Hinkle Fieldhouse. And it doesn't look like that will be changing any time soon. Butler is now 10-0 on its home court this season and 36-6 at Hinkle under Holtmann, who is 20-3 following a loss in his Butler career.
SECOND HALF STRUGGLES
Xavier dictated the pace in the first half, limiting Butler to 36 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent on three-pointers. But in the second half, the Bulldogs shot 56 percent and scored 58 points, leaving the Musketeers dazed.
"It was just layup or free throws, layup or free throws," Malcolm Bernard said after finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds. "We didn't guard well and that's what happens when you don't guard, 58 points."
Xavier: The Musketeers return home Monday to face No. 8 Creighton.
Butler: Will try to extend its home winning streak intact against Marquette on Monday.