Xavier Edges Butler, 51-49
CINCINNATI, OHIO -- Guard Mark Lyons made two free throws with 0:03.4 left on the clock to lift host Xavier to a 51-49 victory over Butler in a non-league game at the Cintas Center on Thursday (Dec. 9). The loss was Butler's second straight and third in the last four games.
The Bulldogs (4-4) rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final 10 minutes and tied the game at 49-49 on a conventional three-point play by sophomore Andrew Smith with 1:26 left in the game. Xavier's Tu Holloway missed a three-point field goal attempt with just over a minute left and Butler's Ronald Nored missed a pair of free throws at 0:32 to set up the decisive closing seconds.
Butler successfully defended the Musketeers' final possession, knocking the ball out of bounds with 0:03.4 left. On the in-bounds play, Nored was call for moving under Lyons, and the Xavier sophomore stepped to the line and calmly sunk both attempts. Butler threw a long pass to junior Shelvin Mack, who took two dribbles and unleashed a three-point field goal attempt that bounced off the rim at the final buzzer.
"I was proud of the way our guys fought back and made it a game at the end and had a chance to win it," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens. "I thought the last 10 minutes were something we can build on."
The Bulldogs started strongly, building a seven-point lead, 12-5, in the first four minutes of the game. But the visitors managed just six more points in the next 13 minutes and found themselves trailing by seven, 25-18. Butler was 0-12 from the field during that 13-minute stretch.
"Most of them were from beyond the arc, we weren't attacking as much as we needed to," added Stevens.
Xavier (6-2) stretched an eight-point halftime lead, 32-24, to 10 points at 41-31 with 11:42 left in the game. But the Bulldogs, behind forward Matt Howard and Mack, charged back and out-scored Xavier, 18-8, in the final 10 minutes, until the last two free throws.
Howard led the Bulldogs with 17 points and Mack added 15, but only five Butler players scored in the game. Kenny Frease topped the Musketeers with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Xavier had a commanding, 40-29, advantage in rebounds.
The Bulldogs face a quick turnaround with a home game against Mississippi Valley State on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m.