Butler Scoring: Elijah Brown 14, Alex Barlow 11, Andrew Chrabascz 7, Khyle Marshall 6, Nolan Berry 3, Jackson Aldridge 2, Erik Fromm 2, Devontae Morgan 2, Kellen Dunham 2, Kameron Woods 1
Key Performance: It's been said about this team plenty already this season, but it is a different team when Dee Davis plays well. Tuesday night he not only made great decisions and setup his teammates, but he knocked down jumpers from the outside. He was a huge part of Xavier building its early lead as he knocked down 3-of-6 first half 3-point attempts to make the Bulldogs pay for trying to shade in the lane and help out against Christon's penetration. Defensively he was on top of his game as well, locking up Kellen Dunham for just two points in 31 minutes of action. Davis finished with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting, nine assists, three rebounds and one turnover.
Good Stat: The Musketeers' offense is a whole lot more difficult to guard when they can knock down a few 3-pointers to help open up the lane for Christon to drive as well as create room for Stainbrook to operate. The problem has not been getting good looks at the basket, but lately the Musketeers have really struggled to make open shots. On Tuesday night that wasn't the case as the Musketeers were 6-for-13 from beyond the arc (46%) for the game - 3-for-10 in the first half and 3-for-3 in the second. Those early threes really helped loosen up Butler's tightly packed defense. X was able to find great looks early on by moving the ball well, particularly when the Bulldogs went to double-team the post or collapsed in the lane on Christon's penetration.
Bad Stat: The stat that really jumps off the statsheet is Stainbrook's five turnovers. You don't want that out of any player, but certainly not your center. This game was a little unusual in the sense that Butler came with a hard double every time Xavier caught the ball in the post, and while it didn't seem to fluster the Musketeers too much, as Coach Mack said after the game Stainbrook tried to make the "homerun pass" a few too many times. He understands the game and has a lot of confidence in his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands, but a couple of times he got caught trying to do too much and either traveled or threw it away. Ultimately, against those hard post doubles, the best decision is to get it to the first open man. The defense has already sold out and put itself out of position, so a quick ball rotation will usually be rewarded with a good opportunity for a shot or a crease to drive the ball. Stainbrook's two assists weren't worth the five turnovers he had trying to make a great play, especially when Philmore and Reynolds just made the simple play and combined for two assists and two turnovers, with Philmore's being a charge called on a post move.
Reynolds Continues Progress: Coming off a strong outing against Providence at the Cintas Center on Saturday, Jalen Reynolds again provided the Musketeers with solid minutes off the bench. He was inserted into the game after the first media timeout, and responded well with a nice rebound, strong defense without fouling and a tough finish in the post during that second four minute war. It wasn't long before Reynolds was back in the game for another three minute stint where he again made his impact felt on the defensive end. He's beginning to get a better feel for when to go straight up (when he's guarding the ball) and just try to get in the way of a shot, and when to really get up and go after a block (when he's off the ball). He didn't have a real productive night - four points (2-of-2 FG), one rebound and two fouls in 16 minutes - but he still made a difference. Reynolds has the ability to be a game-changer for the Musketeers when he is in the game on the defensive end. His unique athletic ability and length allows him to make life difficult on opponents trying to finish in the lane, especially now that he's playing more under control, in position and with more confidence. He also adds another level of athleticism and mobility that the Muskies otherwise lack with Stainbrook, Philmore and Farr on the floor. At this point in practice, Reynolds typically looks like the most talented forward out of the bunch, though Philmore's years of experience still give him the edge and trust of the coaching staff. The immediate continued progress shown by Reynolds after returning from his suspension is a great sign for Xavier fans though. Expect to see his minutes continue to increase as they head down the stretch run of the season.
Musketeers Stay Strong on D: Xavier's defensive intensity didn't fade at all it earned them the win over Providence on Saturday. The Musketeers played a brilliant second half in that game at Cintas, and then took their defensive act on the road to Indianapolis and put together a complete 40 minute performance at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Tuesday night. The Musketeers executed the coaching staff's gameplan of making someone other than Dunham hurt them by scoring. Dee Davis did a great job of chasing him off of screens and being right there with him on the catch, discouraging him from shooting, even if it meant a big man had to help off his man for a second and recover. The bigs also did a great job of hard hedging and keeping him on a third of the court when he tried to use ball screens, eliminating the opportunity for him to get off a shot, and also making it easier to recover to their man since he hadn't created any spacing for the throwback. Dunham entered the game averaging 17.4 points per game, but mustered just two points on 1-for-10 shooting in the contest, and was held scoreless until the 15-minute mark of the second half. X held Butler to 22 points on 8-for-23 (35%) shooting in the first half, including 3-for-10 from three, as the Musketeers got out to a 31-22 lead. The Bulldogs continued to jack shots but it got even worse in the second half as they went just 10-of-30 from the field (33%) and 4-of-15 from 3-point range (26.7%). For the game, X held Butler to just .90 points per possession.
Takeaway: This was about as much as one could ask for out of the Musketeers. They were expected to win, but would a 59-57 victory in another rockfight of a game have shown any improvement from the three-game losing skid to Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova? Not really. This win made a statement. They seem to have the intensity and focus turned back up defensively, plus Reynolds may be emerging as an answer to some of their physical shortcomings on that end of the court. Offensively, they made a few more shots, and looked really patient and confident with their decision-making today. Chris Mack said that David West talked to the guys before the game today about not taking quick shots that were basically the same as turnovers, which is something they really did a good job of in this win. They seemed to have a plan with each possession, and when Butler took away that plan with something like a post trap, X did a good job of reacting and playing unselfish team ball. Earlier in the year, they seemed to need transition opportunities to score, but on Tuesday night they averaged 1.12 points per possession while playing at a slow pace. This team plays a fun style of basketball when it's at its best. Tuesday night they were fun to watch. They'll need to bottle that performance and play the same way for these final seven games.