Story via Will Willems
Inside the Dawg Pound Contributor
CINCINNATI, Ohio – The Butler Bulldogs have become road warriors.
The No. 22 Bulldogs completed a memorable two-game road sweep on Sunday afternoon at Xavier’s Cintas Center, topping the Musketeers 88-79. It was Butler’s first win at the Cintas Center.
“This is a really, really tough place to play,” Butler head coach Chris Holtmann said. “The fact that we haven’t won here since 2008, speaks a lot to the quality of Xavier’s program. We are playing really well. Players win games and we made the necessary plays down the stretch.”
The win came four days after Butler ended Villanova’s 48-game winning streak at their on-campus arena.
Xavier has had similar levels of success at home, going 228-33 at the Cintas Center over the last 17 years. Only four programs in the country – Gonzaga, Oregon, Kentucky and Louisville have a better winning percentage at home.
“Those are two huge wins,” Butler senior Andrew Chrabascz said. “They are two good programs and they are going make deep runs in the tournament. It helps us out tremendously playing against these guys, but getting the ‘W’ against them is huge.”
Butler started 2-3 on the road, but won five of their final six road games to end the season.
At 23-6 and 12-5 in the Big East, they have clinched the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament that starts March 8 at Madison Square Garden.
“We have grown from (those early road losses),” Chrabascz said. “We knew today’s game was going to be physical and we didn’t play top-notch defense the whole game, but we did enough down the stretch to get it done.”
Much like the win at Villanova, Butler went on a big run late in Sunday’s game to grab the victory.
Xavier took a 71-69 lead with 5:43 left in the game on a steal and dunk by J.P. Macura.
The Bulldogs countered with a 15-3 run, at one point registering four steals in a five-possession stretch to take a 84-74 lead with 1:18 to play. Butler converted all four steals into points.
low, we get even more together in those moments,” Chrabascz said. “We need that going forward.”
“Our activity was really good,” Holtmann said. “We tried to mix up our ball screen coverage a little bit and be active. Being able to create some late scores can be back-breaking. It has happened to us before, and we got some scores in transition and that changed the tide.”
Four different Bulldogs scored in the run, which was a microcosm of the entire game offensively for the Bulldogs.
Seven players scored eight or more points in the game, led by Kelan Martin’s 25.
Kamar Baldwin added 17 points, five rebounds and five steals, while Chrabascz added 11 points and six assists. Kethan Savage had nine points and four steals. Nate Fowler, Tyler Wideman and Avery Woodson all had eight.
Butler shot 54.8 percent (34-of-62) for the game and 58.1 percent (18-of-31) in the second half.
“We have so many weapons that it is hard to guard,” Martin said. “We just move the ball around and when the ball touches everybody on an offensive possession, we are going to get a good shot. That is how we beat Villanova and Xavier, really the last four games we have done a good job of that.”
After a physically and mentally draining week, Butler will have nearly a week before they hit the court again on Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Seton Hall.
Butler has won four in a row and five of their last six, including the big road wins.
Holtmann said he is pleased with the way they are playing, but knows bigger things are ahead.
“We have a week to improve, get better, and get our bodies right,” Holtmann said. “I am pleased with how we are playing. The efficiency of our guys offensively has been terrific. We have to continue to get better, but at the same time, at some point the guys will look at this season and this week, reflect and be incredibly proud of what they have done.”