Despite a superior KenPom ranking, the Xavier Musketeers seemed a clear underdog in their Saturday duel against Butler. They hadn’t played in three weeks and they were on the road against a Butler team receiving reinforcements with Christian David returning from injury and Bo Hodges finally eligible. If the Musketeers were supposed to lose this game, they didn’t seem to be aware.
Xavier jumped out to ahead early behind Adam Kunkel, Paul Scruggs, and some tough defense, leading 29-14 with 8:27 left in the first half. It was back and forth for the rest of the half and the teams went into the break with the Musketeers leading 37-25.
In the second half, the Bulldogs mounted a comeback behind Hodges and Bryce Nze. An Nze score cut the lead to four with 6:53 remaining. Shortly thereafter, Hodges came out of the game with an apparent cramp and the Butler offense began to flounder again and Scruggs took over. When time ran out, Xavier had prevailed 68-55.
Scruggs was a star, scoring 24 points on 9/13 shooting, and Kunkel added 15. The Musketeers shot a scorching 10/20 from beyond the arc which helped them more than offset their 13-6 turnover disadvantage.
For the Bulldogs, Nze had his best game of the year, scoring 16 and pulling down 11 rebounds, but didn’t have enough help. The rest of the team shot a combined 16/57 and the Dawgs struggled to defend the perimeter.
The Musketeers improve to 11-2 on the season and 4-2 in conference play while the Bulldogs fall to 5-9 (4-7 BIG EAST).
Butler plays Marquette on Tuesday, February 2 at 5:00 p.m. ET.
Xavier plays DePaul on Wednesday, February 3 at 5:00 p.m. ET.