After splitting back-to-back games against Top 25 teams, Butler takes a break from playing ranked opponents. This doesn’t mean the schedule gets any easier.
The Bulldogs look to build on their first win of the season over a ranked team Saturday when they host Xavier, which is coming off an upset victory over a Top 25 rival.
Butler (7-3) has had a difficult schedule, already facing four ranked teams. The Bulldogs, who lost to then-No. 22 Minnesota and then-No. 19 Clemson by a combined 10 points at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., over Thanksgiving weekend, haven’t played since last Saturday’s 74-66 victory over then-No. 13 Ohio State.
That contest came four days after a 72-65 loss to then-No. 15 Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s good for us,” leading scorer Gordon Hayward said. “We want those challenges. We look forward to them. What really matters for us is in March. We’re working towards that, and we need to improve from all these games.”
Hayward, averaging 16.9 points, has scored 24 in each of his last two games. The 6-foot-8 sophomore is starting to create off the dribble after relying heavily on his 3-point shot last season.
Hayward had 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Matt Howard finished with 19 points and 14 boards in a 74-65 win at Xavier last season.
In that meeting, the Bulldogs were unranked while the Musketeers were No. 14. Butler coach Brad Stevens believes the rankings mean very little.
“The team that’s coming in here next week isn’t ranked, and they can beat anybody in the country,” Stevens said. “Just because there’s a number next to them doesn’t mean it’s any bigger or more meaningful.”
The Musketeers (6-3) are coming off Sunday’s 83-79 double-overtime victory over then-No. 19 Cincinnati in a highly physical game between crosstown rivals.
Terrell Holloway led Xavier with a career-high 26 points, including a three-point play that tied it with 19 seconds left in the first overtime. Jason Love grabbed his 19th rebound with 9.8 remaining in the second extra session and made a clinching free throw.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to go out,” said Love, Xavier’s lone senior who matched his career high in rebounds and blocked five shots.
Jordan Crawford is averaging a team-high 18.2 points in his first season with Xavier after transferring from Indiana.
The Musketeers are making their first trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse—where the Bulldogs have won 60 of 66—since a 73-66 victory on Nov. 17, 1998.
Butler and Xavier were members of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, now the Horizon League, from the 1979-80 season through 1994-95. The Musketeers lead the all-time series 28-15.