Xavier cleans up with sweep of Butler 64-50

MICHAEL MAROT AP Sports Writer Published:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Xavier coach Chris Mack liked what he saw Tuesday night.

His guards locked onto Kellen Dunham and didn't let him get free. His big men made life challenging inside, too.

Add that to Butler's poor shooting and it was no wonder, Mack thought one of the ugliest nights inside Hinkle Fieldhouse in recent memory turned into a real beauty -- with a 64-50 blowout that wasn't even that close.

"I thought Dee (Davis) was as locked in as he's ever been. To hold Kellen Dunham to two points..." Mack said after Xavier's second straight win. "When you do that it puts a lot of pressure on Butler's other players."

Dunham's teammates weren't any better.

Xavier heeded the advice of one of its most famous alums, Pacers power forward David West, by taking charge early and refusing to let up.

The result: The Musketeers (17-7, 7-4 Big East) held their longtime rival to a season-low point total, won for the eighth time in 10 games in this series, came within one minute of handing the Bulldogs their worst home loss in 21 seasons and then heard their own students rub it in by chanting "Na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye."

For Xavier, it doesn't get much better than this.

Semaj Christon continued his hot streak, finishing with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. Isaiah Philmore had 10 points and five rebounds. Matt Stainbrook added six points and nine rebounds, and Davis broke out of a shooting slump by making three 3-pointers to score nine points.

But it was Xavier's staunch defense that was the difference Tuesday. Four times in the first half, Butler went at least two minutes without a basket. So when they opened the second half with only one basket in the first eight minutes, it was all over.

It was also by design.

"I felt like we came out more aware and more ready to stop Dunham and to make sure that when he caught it, we were all right there -- not just Dee," Christon said.

Davis didn't need much help.

He hounded the Bulldogs' top scorer all night, making sure he contested every short or forced him into positions where he could rely on other defenders.

Dunham responded by missing his first seven shots and was kept scoreless for nearly 25 minutes. He wound up 1 for 10 from the field, 0 for 5 on 3-pointers and his worst scoring night of the season.

Without Dunham's usually deft shooting touch, Butler (12-12, 2-10) struggled.

While Elijah Brown finished with 14 points and Alex Barlow added 11, the rest of the team managed just 10 baskets and Butler shot just 34 percent. The Bulldogs have now dropped three in a row and five of six and will try to rebound Thursday night against No. 18 Creighton.

"We had one of those nights where everything we threw up wouldn't go in," coach Brandon Miller said. "We didn't play our best basketball game."

It wasn't even close.

But to Mack and the Xavier contingent, the night couldn't have gone any better as West and two of his NBA teammates, Paul George and George Hill, watched from the front row. If anybody could appreciate Xavier's masterpiece, it was the three guys who play on the NBA's best defense.

Butler was just 8 of 23 in the first half, giving up the last five points to fall into a 31-22 halftime deficit.

Then things got ugly fast.

Xavier scored the first eight points of the second half and after Dunham finally ended his scoring drought with a midrange jumper with 15:18 to go, Xavier answered with nine more points to make it 48-24 with 12:11 left in the game.

By then, it was too late for the struggling Bulldogs to rally.

They never mounted another serious charge, couldn't get closer than 16 until the game's final basket and needed to score the final four points to avoid finishing with their most embarrassing home loss since 1992-93.

"Tonight we did take a step back," Miller said. "We didn't play well, and it makes it look worse when you get decent looks and it doesn't go in."

And that's exactly what Mack wanted to see.

"Especially after seeing the way we had played defense earlier," he said. "But success is never final. You have to get better every single day, and we've gotten a little better, a lot better the last few games defensively."