After back-to-back wins at home, No. 13 Xavier will be tested on the road on Friday night in a Big East Conference clash with Butler in Indianapolis.
Both teams are coming off wins against St. John’s, with Xavier (19-5, 11-2 Big East) routing the Red Storm 96-71 at home Saturday and Butler (12-13, 4-10) eking out a 68-66 victory on their home court Tuesday.
Following a tight overtime victory over Providence the game prior, the Musketeers cruised on Saturday behind a balanced scoring attack led by Jack Nunge’s 21 points and six assists. Colby Jones scored 19 while grabbing eight boards and Souley Boum added 17 points.
“We were completely ready for the game. We came out at halftime supercharged, playing with force, playing defense, playing offense,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “Coming off a game that we spent a lot of energy, I credit our team. A lot of different players played really well.”
Butler was able to squeak by thanks to strong defensive play late in the game. St. John’s failed to score a single point in the final 3:45 of the game, with the Bulldogs closing on a 7-0 run.
“I thought our guys kept fighting, our guys kept playing,” Butler coach Thad Matta said. “We made some great defensive adjustments, the biggest thing tonight was taking over the game defensively late.”
Jayden Taylor led the Bulldogs with 19 points and Manny Bates scored 15 while grabbing six boards and dishing four assists. Simas Lukosius also had an all-around game, scoring 11 and grabbing six rebounds with five assists.
Boum, recently announced as a candidate for the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard, leads Xavier with 16.3 points per game while also leading the team with 5.0 assists a game.
For Butler four players are scoring in double figures, with Taylor leading at 12.2 points per game. Bates leads the team with 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game while Lukosius leads with 3.0 assists per game.
Xavier big man Zach Freemantle continues to miss time due to a left foot issue. After suffering the injury at the end of January it was estimated he would miss at least a month of action.
Butler was without one of its key players on Tuesday in Chuck Harris, who was questionable prior to the game with a concussion. His status for Friday is unclear.
Xavier leads the all-time series at 44-24, but it’s been closer of late. The Musketeers have swept the two-game regular season series each of the past two years, but the Bulldogs have beaten Xavier in each of the past two Big East tournaments, with both games going to overtime.
–Field Level Media