Game Recap: Xavier 79, Butler 68

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Musketeers extend their winning streak to seven games.

Heading to the bench with 2 fouls seven minutes into Xavier’s annual game against Cincinnati last month, Semaj Christon did something he had been hesitant in doing during his Xavier career, trust his teammates. The Musketeers responded, going on a 13-2 run while opening up a 16-point lead against their crosstown rivals. The game showed Christon that unlike the 2012-13 campaign, he doesn’t need to score for the Musketeers to succeed as a team. After three games as a secondary scorer, Christon showed Saturday that he can still be the go-to offensive player, scoring a game high 20 points in Xavier’s 79-68 victory over Butler.

Since the aforementioned game against Cincinnati, the sophomore superstar has accumulated 50 points, 25 assists, 7 blocks, and one turnover in four games. Yesterday, with the Musketeers struggling on defense against Butler, Christon scored 16 first-half points to limit the Bulldog halftime lead to five points. The home team responded defensively, limiting Butler to 9-29 (31%) shooting in the second stanza.

A key to Xavier’s second half attack was the return of Dee Davis, who only played seven first half minutes due to foul trouble. Davis was the primary defender on Butler leading scorer Kellen Dunham, and helped limit the sharp shooter to two points on 1-6 shooting in the second half. Chipping in on the offensive end also, Davis had twelve second-half points, missing only one shot from the field.

Coming in, Xavier had an advantage in bench production over the visiting Bulldogs. Coach Chris Mack chose not to fully utilize his young reserves in the second half against Butler, playing each of his starters more than 15 minutes. For the game, the Musketeer bench contributed only 8 point, while Butler received 21 bench points.

For the second straight game, Butler’s inability to defend the post cost Brandon Miller’s team a potential upset. Xavier’s frontcourt duo of Isaiah Philmore and Matt Stainbrook scored a combined 26 points on 10-15 shooting. Said Miller, "The thing that we need to get better at is limiting touches in the post; the ball is getting there too easy". With Butler not doubling the Musketeer post players, deep entry passes allowed Stainbrook to use his extra 30+ pounds to manipulate the Bulldog defenders. The center has averaged 16 points over Xavier’s last 4 games on 58.6% shooting.

Up next for the Musketeers is a third straight Big East home game when Marquette visits the Cintas Center on Thursday. The Golden Eagles were picked on media day as the conference favorites, but have struggled this season, going 9-6, including 1-1 in the Big East. Marquette is a rare team that has personnel that can match up with Xavier, as frontcourt players Davante Gardner and Chris Otule provide interior strength. The contest should provide another strong home environment for Xavier.

Grading the Musketeers

Dee Davis

B

Davis was tremendous in the second half, a game changer on both ends of the floor, scoring 12 points while helping hold Kellen Dunham to only two. However, the two fouls in the first half hurt Xavier on a couple fronts. Twice Davis fouled on a 3-point attempt, giving Dunham six free throw attempts. The early fouls also left Xavier without their floor general for 13 minutes.

Semaj Christon

A

How many guards in the country can say they’ve had a stretch of basketball with seven times as many blocked shots as turnovers? Christon continued a stretch of phenomenal play, scoring 16 points in the first half and finishing with 20 points and 8 assists. The sophomore was also 6-7 from the line, and is now shooting 72.9% from the stripe in his last eight games, after converting on only 53.7% in his first seven.

Justin Martin

B+

Another solid game for the human roulette machine. 13 points and 7 rebounds in 32 minutes. Martin is the X-factor for the Musketeers, providing a third scoring option to Christon and Stainbrook when he is shooting well.

Isaiah Philmore

C

Philmore battled foul trouble, picking up 2 first half fouls, and his third just 13 seconds into the second half. Two of his nine points came on an uncontested dunk in the closing seconds. Rebounding continues to be a strength; Philmore had six in just 24 minutes.

Matt Stainbrook

A

Brandon Miller decided not to double team Stainbrook, and the center responded with 17 points on 7-12 shooting, adding 7 rebounds and 4 assists. The junior played a season high 35 minutes in a contest where Xavier could not afford to have both of their big men sitting with foul trouble.

James Farr

D

Farr acknowledged a poor performance, tweeting after the game, "I didn’t’ play my best but more importantly we got the win! Back to lab I go!". Farr was the only Musketeer playing more than 10 minutes that did not score above 100 on Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency ratings against Butler.

Myles Davis

B

Now held without a three pointer for 3 straight games, Davis proved he is more than just a spot up shooter, scoring a pair of 2-point baskets. His late free throws helped ice the game.

Brandon Randoph

D

Randolph was a non-factor, going scoreless with one turnover and assist. Mack indicated he felt more comfortable playing experienced players this contest, limiting the freshman to a career-low nine minutes.

Jalen Reynolds/Erik Stenger

C

The duo can be lumped together as they each served the same role, providing energy in limited minutes. Neither scored, as they combined for 4 rebounds. Stenger’s seven minutes were the most since being sidelined with a stomach virus before Xavier’s trip to the Bahamas. Reynolds’ three matched a career low. It will be interesting to see how Mack allocates minutes to these two players going forward.

Chris Mack

B

Justin Martin indicated the Musketeers struggled winning 50/50 balls in the first half. Much of that comes down to coaching, as it appeared Mack’s team came out sluggish in the rivalry game. Mack stated in his press conference that Butler made shots that Xavier was OK conceding; those shots didn’t fall in the second half.

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