X Falls to Butler in Crushing Blow in BIG EAST Tournament
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier's NCAA Tournament chances tumbled from probable to tenuous in the wake of Wednesday's BIG EAST Tourney 89-82 Overtime loss to Butler at MSG. It's a "bad" NET Quad 3 defeat. X is squarely on the NCAA bubble now at 18-13, w/ 6 losses in their last 7 games and a 36 NET which is certain to fade to 40 or worse Thursday AM. Best case now seemingly XU sneaks into the last 4 "in" group and has to play next Tuesday or Wednesday in Dayton. I say any port in a storm, but Muskies now seem so vulnerable to bid stealers etc? NCAA seems to be a long shot?
First half vs Butler XU should have built an early lead. BU couldn't make a shot (1-8 to start). Muskie "D" seemed sticky. XU BIGS carried the play, but X missed around the rim and could not buy a "3"(0-7 1st half).
Xavier locked down defensively holding Butler scoreless for five minutes and Muskies ran off 8 straight points to lead 24-18 w/ 3:30 left before the half.
It's been a problem all BE season-X could not finish the half strong. BU forged a 26-26 tie at the break. Bigs Nunge and Freemantle combined for 14 points and 14 rebounds. Everybody else struggled.
In the second half, Butler relied on Muskie killer Chuck Harris (29 points) and Frosh Simus Lukosius (27 points-the main guy w/ 12 in OT). BU built a 54-49 lead w/ 8:27 left then
XU flipped the script and took off on a 4 minute 8-0 run to lead 57-54. Colby Jones was tremendous. XU fought well to stay ahead. Zach Freemantle swished a "3" from the top of the key to put Xavier up 63-58 w/ 2:30 to go. Jack Nunge scored inside to keep X up 5 (65-60) w/ 1:25 left. Freemantle hit 1 of 2 FTS w/ 52 seconds left (66-60). Home free? Not this year. XU proceeded to miss 5 straight FTs down the stretch.
Paul Scruggs put XU ahead 68-66 w/ 8.5 ticks left on a gutsy balls to the wall drive and circus reverse lay-up. He missed the FT-fouled Lukosious at mid-court-fouled out of the game and Lukosious made both FTs to force OT.
X quickly fell behind in OT letting Lukosious get any shot he wanted. Without Scruggs X seemed impotent offensively. Sour pressure FT shooting cost Xavier the game (13-29 45%).
Other common themes contributed like 3-15 from "3" while Butler mage 8 triples. More bad guys scored career highs as Harris and Lukosious joined the list along w/ Jared Bynum(PC) and Julian Champagnie (St. Johns) etc etc. X tried to guard 6-6 Lukosious w/ Adam Kunkel (did not work). Nate Johnson didn't get the ball enough IMHO. What do I know?
XU played hard for the most part. They showed composure rallying to lead by 6 in the final minute then just came part at the FT line under pressure. The OT was a chuck and duck joke.
It's going to be a long slog to Sunday at 6PM (Don't forget to spring ahead to daylight savings time at 2AM Sunday). Maybe XU will slide into the NCAA 68? It's a self inflicted wound for the Muskies this life on the bubble. First four in-first four out-play-in game-UD Arena-NIT. All this could have been avoided but it is what it is!!