Xavier edges Butler 79-68

Mark Schmetzer Associated Press Published:

CINNCINNATI, Ohio (AP) -- Foul trouble from serving as the point man and defending Butler sharpshooter Kellen Dunham limited Dee Davis to seven minutes and one shot in the first half of Xavier's Big East game against Butler on Saturday.

Davis more than made up for it in the second half.

Playing all 20 minutes, the Xavier junior scored all 12 of his points in the second half as the Musketeers came from behind to edge the Butler Bulldogs, 79-68, in a Big East game on Saturday.

"I just wanted to come in and make an impact and bring some energy to the team," said Davis, who led a defense that limited Dunham to just two points in the second half.

"In the second half, I thought Dee was phenomenal," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "I don't think we could ask for anything more than what we got out of him. Dee is a special defender."

Semaj Christon led all scorers with 20 points for Xavier. Matt Stainbrook finished with 17 points and Justin Martin also reached double figures with 13 as the Musketeers (12-3, 2-0 Big East) extended their winning streak to seven games and improved to 10-0 at home before a capacity crowd of 10,250.

Xavier's only losses were at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

Khyle Marshall led three Bulldogs in double figures with 14 points. Dunham, who went into the game leading Butler with an average of 18.4 points per game, scored just 11 points and Elijah Brown added 10 for Butler (10-4, 0-2), which has lost two straight games after a five-game winning streak. Both those losses have been in the Big East. The Bulldogs lost, 73-70, to No. 11 Villanova on New Year's Eve.

Both teams are in their first season in the Big East.

"That was an unbelievable game," Mack said. "The fans were on the edge of their seats. Both teams battled from beginning to end. The point differential - anybody who was here knows it was a lot closer than that.

"I was joking (on his post-game radio show) that that was a hell of a game for the seventh and eighth place teams," Mack added, referring to pre-season projections that had the two teams finishing down in the Big East standings.

The Bulldogs committed 15 turnovers, helping Xavier build a 14-4 advantage in points off of turnovers. The Musketeers also enjoyed a 15-6 lead in fast-break points, but Butler outscored Xavier 36-24 in the paint and 21-8 off the bench.

"Anybody who's followed Butler-Xavier knows that it's always 'grind-it-out,'" Martin said.

That Xavier paid special attention to Dunham was no surprise to first-year Butler coach Brandon Miller. Dunham finished 3-for-10 from the field, including 2-for-5 on 3-pointers.

"Teams are game-planning for Kellen, and Xavier is no different," Miller said. "When you never leave him, it's hard to get open looks."

"A couple of the shots Kellen made were eye-popping," Mack said. "We're not the only team that places big emphasis on Kellen. A couple of the shots he takes, I don't see how he hits the rim. We had a lot of respect for Kellen coming in."

After 11 ties and five lead changes, the Musketeers took the lead for good, 66-64, on a Dee Davis layup with 5:56 to play in the game. Xavier pulled away from there and widened the final margin with some clutch free throws in the final 30 seconds while forcing Butler to miss its last five shots from the field and commit a turnover.

"That was a tale of two halves," Miller said. "We came out and executed well offensively in the first half. We had a few turnovers, but we shot what we needed to shoot. In the second half, we didn't execute at both ends nearly well enough. Our execution was not good enough to win."

After Erik Fromm connected on a jump hook to give Butler its largest lead, 44-37, 14 seconds into the second half, Davis scored five points during a 9-0 Xavier run that left the Musketeers leading, 46-44, with 17:37 left in the half.

The Bulldogs made seven of their first eight shots from the field and shot 60.9 percent (14-of-23) from the field while building a 42-37 halftime lead. Marshall scored 11 points to lead Butler. Christon, who was averaging 14.4 points per game, scored 16 before halftime to help Xavier stay close.