Andy Mac: Butler Game Slips Away from Musketeers
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier TEAM 99 seemingly deep sixed its NCAA Tourney chances-losing 70-69 in OT to Butler in Round One of the BIG EAST Tournament Wednesday at MSG. Muskies slip to 13-8 overall w/ 3 straight losses. They are 1-4 since sniper Nate Johnson went down w/ a leg injury and 3-6 since returning after that 21 day January COVID pause. X started like a tornado leading by as many as 19 points-up 40-26 on Butler at the half. Freshmen Colby Jones(10), Dwon Odom(8) and C.J. Wilcher(7) totaled 25 1st half points. XU attacked off the dribble and that opened up the perimeter game(6 of 12 from "3"). Muskies shot 59%FG and killed BU on the glass 21-11. The defense was sticky also.
Butler shot just 33%. Star Frosh guards Harris and Tate shot a collective 0-11FG). Butler flipped the script after halftime. Bulldogs abused XU's inside defense. Their posts Golden and Nze combined for 39 points-picking on Jason Carter(sore ankle) repeatedly.
Muskies stopped driving into the paint. Butler chipped their way back. Zach Freemantle tweaked an ankle w/ about 10 minutes left. X went into a 4 minute scoring funk. Freemantle sucked it up-returned and scored 7 in a row.
Muskies led 59-53 w/ 2:41 left in regulation but spit the bit going scoreless in multiple possessions down the stretch while Butler scored 6 to tie and force OT. XU did play inspired "D" over the last 24 seconds. Dwon Odom blocked a late Chuck Harris jumper and we went to overtime.
Harris dominated the extra 5 minutes-scoring 8 points-Two FTs by Harris w/ 3 seconds left gave Bulldogs a 70-69 lead. BU took a foul to waste the clock. Scruggs missed a final shot. Butler won 70-69.
X stopped pinging the ball around confidently in 2nd half. They tightened up and lost their poise. Chuck Harris certainly found his game w/ 21 points in 2nd half and OT.
There's one extra NCAA at large bid(IVY LEAGUE did not play because of COVID) but it would take a minor miracle for XU to back into the NCAA Field of 68 now. The loss to Butler is an NET Quad 3 (bad loss). Apparently there's a reduced field 16 team NIT which could be a possibility for the Muskies?? We'll keep you posted if X sneaks into the NCAA or does wind up in NIT.
This team just could not put together two decent halves except for the Creighton win at Cintas 10 days ago. COVID pauses and injuries to Nate Johnson and Ben Stanley were factors. No excuses for blowing this big lead vs Butler though. A "MUST" win was there for the taking!!