Led by their defense for a second straight game, Xavier earned its third road victory of the 2013-14 campaign in a 64-50 route of Butler on Tuesday night. Xavier’s Dee Davis, who held the Bulldogs’ leading scorer Kellen Dunham to 2 points on 1-10 shooting, led the defensive effort. Dunham misfired on all five of his 3-point attempts and was unable to utilize screens to create separation from Davis, who crowded the Butler sophomore on every catch.
After holding the home team to only 22 first half points, Xavier took control of the game in the second half, going on a 17-2 run over the first 7-plus minutes to turn a 9 point halftime lead into a 48-24 lead with 12:11 left in the game. From there, the Musketeers took their foot off the gas as Butler scored 21 points in the last 10 minutes to make the final score slightly more respectable. Still, the 50 points allowed in 56 possessions (0.89 points per possession) was Xavier’s most efficient defensive effort since a December 28th contest against Wake Forest.
In addition to his defense on Dunham, Dee Davis also had the type of offensive game Chris Mack expects from his point guard. The junior kept Butler honest, knocking down perimeter jump shots when open, but was primarily a floor general, setting up teammates for scoring opportunities. Davis finished with three 3-pointers and 9 assists against 1 turnover. The game snapped a streak of rough play for the point guard, who had compiled an offensive rating score of below 100 in the four games prior to yesterday’s contest.
A weakness throughout Big East play, Xavier clamped down on 3-point defense for the second straight game on Tuesday night, holding Butler to 7-25 (28%) from behind the arc. Three of those triples came in the last 5 minutes of the game, when the outcome was no longer in doubt. Butler is not a strong 3-point shooting team, but neither is Georgetown, who made 55.6% of their attempts earlier this season against the Musketeers.
The perimeter effort was due to strong communication, as Xavier rarely broke down defensively, limiting scrambling situations where a shooter could be left open. Part of the reason is due to Butler not having a player that can use dribble penetration to get to the rim. Chris Mack and his staff did a great job scouting the Bulldogs, limiting the number of defensive breakdowns. A couple of the 3-pointers were looks Mack would actually invite Butler to take; Andrew Chrabascz made his second 3-point field goal of the season and Nolan Berry made his first in eight attempts.
Offensively, Xavier showed some nice balance, with nine players scoring and only two in double figures. Isaiah Philmore showed a new dimension to his game with three mid-range jump shots en route to 10 points. One of the few Musketeers to struggle was Matt Stainbrook, who turned the ball over 5 times while getting trapped on every post catch. Normally an elite passer out of double teams, the performance from Stainbrook was somewhat surprising.
Xavier now heads to Milwaukee to face Marquette on Saturday afternoon. The Musketeers were led by Semaj Christon’s 28 points in a 86-79 win over the Golden Eagles on January 9th. To win on Saturday, the visitors will need a better defensive effort than in the first meeting. The last two outings should infuse some confidence into Chris Mack’s team, who will attempt to prevent Marquette from their first three game winning streak this season.