Despite being without starting point guard Edmond Sumner, Xavier was able to run away in the second half for an 88-69 win over No. 9 Butler at the Cintas Center Saturday afternoon.
The Musketeers got a career-best 21 points from Remy Abell, and their front court dominated the lane as they outscored Butler 42-28 in the paint, 16-10 on second chance points, and out-rebounded the Bulldogs 36-31.
"I knew my offense hasn't been going well, but I've always been team-first," Abell said. "We've been winning games, so I don't complain at all. Everybody had to step up today (with Sumner out). I was just looking to be aggressive like every game, and my teammates did a great job of finding me and I was able to knock down some shots."
The 19-point loss marked the biggest defeat Butler had suffered since last year when Xavier beat the Bulldogs by 17. The Musketeers now lead the series 36-18 and have won 15 of the last 19 meetings, including eight of the last 10.
Xavier led by as many as 12 in the first half, but the Bulldogs trimmed their deficit to 34-31 by the final media timeout. An 11-4 Xavier run to end the half, capped by a Myles Davis 3-pointer at the buzzer, gave the Musketeers a 45-35 halftime lead.
From the 12 minute mark of the second half to the under eight-minute media timeout, the Musketeers went on an 11-1 run powered by a Kaiser Gates three and a tip-dunk in transition by James Farr that increased their lead to 13, 66-53.
They never looked back.
Out of the timeout, the Musketeers continued the onslaught, stretching the run to 18-5 over the next three minutes. Myles Davis' out of rhythm, guarded three from the right wing gave them a 73-57 lead with 5:20 to play.
Xavier ended the game on a 30-16 run.
"It's a quick turnaround," Mack said of the last 48 hours since the loss at Villanova. "We (practiced) for about 90 minutes yesterday, and for 30 of them we were battling. That's always the hard spot you're in as coaches, but I think the resiliency of our kids to bounce back today says a lot about the guys in our locker room and how much they care about our season."
Abell could have sat the entire second half, and it would have been his best performance of the year so far. He was 5-of-6 from the field with 14 points before intermission. He finished the game 7-of-8 from the floor, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, with four assists and no turnovers.
"I'm happy for Remy. He's a kid that never changes his expression. If you come to practice, you know what I mean - he's always smiling," Mack said. "Despite maybe his personal struggles at times on offense, he always gives it his all on the defensive end. There's no quit in him. He's continued to put in the time. He shot extra with one of the assistants after yesterday's practice. More importantly than the balling going in from the 3-point line, it was important to see him have an attacking mentality. When you lose Edmond you need guys that can get the ball in the lane off drives or post-ups, and I thought Remy really did that for our team today. He drove the baseline several times in the first half."
The Musketeers placed five players in double figures for the sixth time this season.
"In any sport when a man goes down, especially an important player, somebody has to be ready to step up," Davis said. "That's what makes us so good. We're so deep. Guys came ready to play regardless. We didn't need to say anything, guys knew what needed to be done and we took care of business."
Both coaches decided to mix up their starting lineups heading into the game.
Mack opted to go with a bigger lineup, starting both Reynolds and Farr together. The duo combined for 21 points and 18 rebounds, with Reynolds scoring 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor, including 1-of-1 from 3-point range.
"The biggest thing is he stayed out of foul trouble," Mack said. "To come to the first TV timeout and not be reminded that Jalen has one or two fouls, that he didn't have any… he played 28 minutes… was really good for our team. Athletically, he changes the game around the basket. Even if he doesn't have production in terms of blocked shots, guys know he's in there."
Butler coach Chris Holtmann benched three of his starters - Tyler Lewis, Kellen Dunham and Andrew Chrabascz - in favor of Jordan Gathers, Kelan Martin and Austin Etherington to start.
Dunham ended his 0-for-21 streak from long distance after he got off the bench by nailing 3-of-5 attempts. He finished with 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
The Bulldogs were led by Jones' 14 points, six assists, four rebounds and four turnovers.
With extra playing time available, Xavier's bench made the most of the opportunity. Freshman Kaiser Gates scored a career-high 10 points in 12 minutes by nailing 2-of-3 attempts from beyond the arc and making all four of his free throws. He also grabbed five rebounds.
"Sometimes injury for one is an opportunity for another," Mack said. Kaiser doesn't play point guard, but I told him he was going to get the opportunity that he probably wanted. He's going against a very difficult frontcourt every day in practice. He has to rebound at the level that other guys are rebounding at in order for us to feel comfortable, but he can really move his feet and he might be the second-best shooter on our team. We have to find ways to get him on the floor."
Larry Austin also played one of his best games in a Xavier uniform, going 1-for-2 from the field with two points, four assists, two rebounds and two turnovers in 11 minutes. Two of Xavier's most important runs - the final minutes of the first half and midway through the second half - were started when the sophomore point guard was on the floor.
"He's an emotional leader for our team," Mack said. "He can really, really affect things if he's playing with a lot of energy. He came in today, his energy was infectious, and he did a great job defensively. Offensively, he got the ball where he needed to and he ran our team. It was really good to see. We'll be that much stronger when Edmond comes back."
Sean O'Mara was once again efficient in his six minutes on the floor. He added four points (1-1 FG, 2-2 FT), two rebounds and an assist in six minutes of action, adding to the Musketeers' overwhelming advantage in the paint.
With the impressive 19-point win, Xavier moves to 13-1 and may have done enough to keep its top 10 national ranking when the new polls come out on Monday.
The players will regroup and enjoy an off day on Sunday before getting ready for a Wednesday tilt at St. John's.