Xavier ends long layoff with trip to nemesis Butler

·2 min read

Xavier has been waiting almost three weeks for the chance to build on a modest winning stretch. Standing in the way of continued success is a Butler program that the Musketeers have struggled with of late.

Visiting Xavier can record a third straight victory by snapping its three-game slide to the Bulldogs on Saturday in a Big East contest in Indianapolis.

Due to COVID-19 issues inside and out of the program, Xavier (10-2, 3-2) has not played since Jan. 10. The Musketeers were slated to face Georgetown on Tuesday, but that contest was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Hoyas' program. This matchup with Butler (5-8, 4-6) was originally scheduled for Friday.

"It is kind of what it is," Xavier coach Travis Steele said. "It's out of our control. But it's hard to get into a rhythm.

"It's hard, but I keep on reminding our guys, you've got to focus on what you can control. We cannot control that -- the schedule."

Xavier bounced back from back-to-back losses to Creighton and Seton Hall with wins over St. John's and Providence. Colby Jones hit a game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds for a 74-73 victory over the Friars on Jan. 10. While the finish was dramatic, Xavier shot 48.3 percent after making 38.6 percent of its shots over the previous three games.

Leading scorer Zach Freemantle (15.8 points, 7.9 rebounds) had 17 points in that contest -- just the second time in five games he scored in double figures. He totaled 15 points while Xavier was swept by Butler in two 2019-20 meetings.

The Musketeers have dropped their last three against the Bulldogs by a combined 11 points.

Butler, which has played four times since Xavier last took the floor, failed to post a third straight win by falling 63-51 at Connecticut on Tuesday. The Bulldogs shot 34.5 percent while scoring their fewest points of the season.

"I thought we had some good looks that we didn't finish at times," coach LaVall Jordan said. "We will stay the course."

Butler leading scorer Jair Bolden (13.0) was held to seven points on 3-of-12 shooting at UConn. It's the third time in five games that he failed to score in double figures for the Bulldogs, who are down to eight scholarship players due to injuries and COVID-19-related issues.

This will be Butler's first home game since Jan. 16.

--Field Level Media