December 23, 2008

Young Butler Team Upsets No. 14 Xavier 74-65

CINCINNATI (AP)--Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward both scored 19 points, and Butler turned back one late Xavier rally after another to beat the 14th-ranked Musketeers 74-65 on Tuesday night, the Bulldogs' first win over a ranked team in more than a year.

Butler (10-1) hadn't beaten a ranked team since its 62-59 victory over No. 18 Maryland in the 2007 NCAA tournament. This one came against a team that suddenly looks lost.

Xavier (9-2) was coming off an 82-64 loss to Duke on Saturday that ended the second-best start in school history and gave the Musketeers a lesson in what happens if they leave their swagger in the locker room. Duke opened with an 18-1 run that set the game on course for a blowout.

Against an old rival, the Musketeers got off to another bad start and bad outcome. It was the Musketeers' second loss in their last 31 games at the Cintas Center. Derrick Brown led Xavier with 17 points.

Butler's only loss was 54-51 at Ohio State on Dec. 13. This time, the Bulldogs made sure the upset wouldn't slip away.

Butler and Xavier played regularly during their 16 years together in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, with the Bulldogs going 3-16 in Cincinnati during that time.

For their first rematch in 10 years, the Bulldogs started three freshmen and a sophomore and won in their usual style: Few turnovers, tough defense, a few 3s. They did a little of all three during an opening 12-4 run that left Xavier with a familiar, bad feeling. Xavier missed its first four 3-point shots while falling behind.

The Musketeers made four 3s, the last by Brad Redford, during a 14-7 spurt that put them ahead 26-24 late in the first half. It would be their final lead.

Howard had two three-point plays during a 12-4 run that put Butler ahead 44-36 with 14:25 left. The Bulldogs jumped to their feet in celebration when Xavier called a timeout to blunt the run. Six times, Xavier got within a basket. All six times, a Bulldog made a basket or free throws to preserve the lead that they held since the closing minute of the first half.

Xavier's final chance came after Brown made a 3-pointer with 1:52 remaining, cutting it to 68-65. Ronald Nored made two free throws to end it there.