Despite falling behind by as many as 19 points in the first half of Wednesday’s game, the #10 Butler Bulldogs rallied to capture a 70-69 win over the #7 Xavier Musketeers in overtime.
The Musketeers looked to have a firm grasp on the game over the first 20 minutes, going 6-12 from long-range and holding Butler to a 33.3 field goal percentage to take a 40-26 lead into the locker room. Xavier were even getting strong scoring efforts from players outside of their season leading scoring tandem of Zach Freemantle and Paul Scruggs, as Dwon Odom and Colby Jones combined for 19 of the Musketeers 40 first half points.
Something changed in the locker rooms during halftime, though. Butler came out and cut the Xavier lead from 14 to eight over the first nine minutes of the half. With six minutes left in the game, Bo Hodges split a pair of free throws to cut Xavier’s lead to just three. Making things worse for the Musketeers, Zach Freemantle seemed to tweak something in his leg and had to come out of the game. Once Freemantle returned a couple minutes later though, he scored seven straight points for Xavier, and put the Musketeers up 59-53 with 2:30 to go. Xavier couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch though, while Butler saw Bryce Golden score twice and Chuck Harris connect on a pair of free throws to tie it at 59 with 41 seconds to go. Xavier turned the ball over, giving Butler a chance to win the game in regulation, but Dwon Odom blocked a Chuck Harris jumper to send the game to overtime.
The extra period was quite frenetic to start, with the teams trading buckets and being knotted back up at 65 with 80 seconds to play. Odom made a tough shot to put Xavier back up, but Harris hit a three on the other end for Butler to give the Bulldogs the lead. Paul Scruggs drew a foul and connected on both free throws,
This is where things get confusing. With Butler holding for the last shot, Harris drove into the lane. Odom, seemingly thinking Xavier still had a foul to give, fouled him on the floor. The only issue? Xavier didn’t have a foul to give. Harris connected on both free throws and the Musketeers were unable to knock down their final look, giving the Bulldogs the upset win.
Butler advances to face Creighton Thursday afternoon, while Xavier heads back to Cincinnati with an air of uncertainty surrounding them. The Musketeers started the season 11-2 only to finish with a 13-8 record, and went just 2-6 following February 13’s return from their third COVID shutdown. Depending on which bracketologist you listen to, the Musketeers were either barely in or barely out of the NCAA Tournament going into Wednesday. A first round exit in the Big East Tournament certainly won’t help things, and the Musketeers now likely need some help from another bubble team if they want to play in their first NCAA Tournament since 2018.