NEW YORK (AP) — No secrets on either side in this one. Just a grind-it-out game that Xavier snatched away in the end.
Jalen Reynolds converted a three-point play with 3:22 left in overtime that put the Musketeers ahead for good, and Xavier rallied past No. 22 Butler 67-61 on Thursday night in a tense Big East Tournament quarterfinal.
“We scouted them really well. We knew their stuff. We just wanted to make sure we didn’t get out-toughed,” senior center Matt Stainbrook said.
Stainbrook, Dee Davis and Myles Davis each scored 13 points to lead five players in double figures for the sixth-seeded Musketeers (20-12), who have reached the conference semifinals in both seasons since joining the Big East.
They play 23rd-ranked and second-seeded Georgetown in the doubleheader finale Friday night.
“It seems like every time we play Butler here over the last five or six years, they’re just gritty games,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “We didn’t get off to a really good start either the first or second half. I thought our team responded with the resiliency that at times maybe we haven’t had, but certainly we’ve had over the last month of the season.”
The hard-fought victory might have cemented a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the Musketeers, though it seemed most recent projections had them safely in the field before this one.
Alex Barlow had a career-high 22 points for the third-seeded Bulldogs (22-10), still looking for their first Big East Tournament win after two years in the league. Kellen Dunham scored 17 and Kameron Woods grabbed 14 rebounds, but both fouled out in overtime — costing Butler in a game it led most of the way.
Minus their leading scorer (Dunham) and rebounder (Woods), the Bulldogs were unable to make the plays they needed down the stretch.
“I think any time you play a team that has a lot of familiarity with each other, it’s bone on bone,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “It comes down to, can you make free throws? Can you take care of the ball a little bit better? Xavier did a better job than us tonight.”
Woods fouled out on a layup by Reynolds, who added the free throw to give Xavier a 59-56 lead. Reynolds, who finished with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, hit another free throw and then fouled out himself with 2:04 to play.
Trevon Bluiett made a free throw with 1:40 left, then missed the second. Stainbrook grabbed the rebound — he pulled down 10 in all — and Myles Davis followed up another offensive rebound with a basket that made it 63-58 with 1:05 left.
Two free throws by Myles Davis extended Xavier’s cushion to 66-59, all but sealing it with 29.5 seconds remaining.
Dee Davis opened overtime with a three-point play for Xavier, which erased a 10-point deficit in the first half and climbed out of a nine-point hole in the second period.
Barlow nailed a 3-pointer to tie it before Reynolds made his big play.
Xavier pulled even at 53 when Bluiett hit a 3 with 2:36 remaining in regulation, and neither team scored the rest of the half.
The Musketeers had the ball in the final seconds with a chance to win, but Barlow stole it from Stainbrook and came up just short with an on-line heave from halfcourt at the buzzer.
Andrew Chrabascz had 16 points for the Bulldogs. They started the second half with a 14-3 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Dunham that gave Butler a 42-33 edge with 14:10 remaining. Then the Bulldogs went almost six minutes without scoring as Xavier began to chip away at the lead.
Xavier: The Musketeers reached 20 wins for the ninth time in the last 10 years, and 17th in the past 19 seasons. They improved to 5-2 against Top 25 teams this season. … Xavier scored 16 points in the first half off nine Butler turnovers.
Butler: The Bulldogs fell to 4-8 Madison Square Garden. … Butler, which set a school record by making all 20 free throws last Saturday in a win at Providence, went 10 for 19 from the line (52.6 percent). “Obviously, we’ve got to do a better job of knocking them down,” Holtmann said. “When we’ve lost a couple of close games this season, a couple times it’s been because of free throw shooting.”
The teams split two regular-season meetings, with each winning by double digits at home. And while Xavier and Butler might be relative newcomers to the Big East, they’re plenty familiar with each other. They also squared off as conference rivals in the Atlantic 10 and Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League). Butler won the previous meeting in a conference tournament, 78-61 in 1992 in the MCC. Xavier leads the all-time series 35-18, winning 14 of the last 18 and seven of the past nine meetings.
Xavier: The Musketeers won both regular-season meetings with Georgetown, by an average of 15 points.
Butler: Waiting on an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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