Butler vs. Xavier: Quick hits

Kamar Baldwin brings the ball up the court during a game this season. Baldwin scored a career-high 36 points in Butler’s 72-71 win at Xavier on March 7 to end the regular season. Chandler Hart/Collegian file photo. 

CHRIS BROWN | SPORTS EDITOR | cbbrown@butler.edu

Kamar did it again. 

Playing in his final regular season game, Kamar Baldwin outdid himself once more, scoring 25 points in the second half and a career-high 36 points overall as Butler defeated Xavier 72-71 in Cincinnati on March 7 to end the regular season.

Like he’s done so many times in his career, Baldwin stepped up with the game on the line, knocking down this three as time expired:

With that shot, the Bulldogs finished the regular season 10-8 in conference play and 22-9 overall. 

Here’s a look at some of the other key storylines, stats and notes from Butler’s season-ending victory:

With its win, Butler has reached 10 Big East regular season victories for the first time in LaVall Jordan’s tenure as head coach. The Bulldogs were 9-9 and 7-11, respectively, in conference play in Jordan’s first two years at the helm. Butler’s 22 total wins is the highest mark under Jordan as well.

The Bulldogs played well defensively in the first half, but led by only two at halftime. Both teams appeared a little overeager in the opening minutes and it showed on the offensive end, with Xavier starting 0-of-8 from the field and the Bulldogs starting 1-of-7. After that start, though, the Bulldogs were 11-of-20 from the field the rest of the half. Baldwin tallied 11 points and Henry Baddley knocked down two 3-pointers on two shots off the bench in the opening 20 minutes. The Bulldogs outshot the Musketeers from the field 44% to 30% in the first half but led only 29-27 at halftime thanks in part to six Xavier made free throws on 10 attempts. 

The second half was up and down. And then Baldwin took over. Xavier scored first in the second half to tie the game, but the Bulldogs responded with a 7-0 run and led by as many as nine points, 49-40, with just over 12 minutes to play. The Musketeers erased that lead in a matter of moments, and after a five-point possession took a 56-55 lead. But then it was Baldwin’s time. The senior scored 13 of Butler’s final 15 points, capped off by that game-winner. In addition to being his career high, Baldwin’s 36 points are the most any Butler player has had in a game since Kelan Martin scored 37 against Marquette on Jan. 12, 2018.

Not to be lost in the madness, Aaron Thompson had another impressive game. The junior guard drove to the basket and hit a few floaters, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field. He also tallied five steals in addition to two rebounds and two assists. Thompson has now scored eight or more points in four of Butler’s last five games.

Sean McDermott, who exited for a short time after injuring his left ankle, only took five shots in this game. Midway through the first half, the redshirt junior slipped on a drive and came out of the game hobbling significantly. He came back in not long later but didn’t appear at 100 percent the rest of the way. McDermott finished with just one made field goal on five attempts but did tally seven rebounds in addition to his three points.

Butler converted on eight of its 14 3-point attempts, the highest rate in a game this season. The Bulldogs’ 3-point percentage of 57% bests the team’s previous high of 50% – 6-of-12 – set at Providence on Jan. 10. Baldwin knocked down five of those, tying his season high, while Baddley finished with two 3-pointers and Jordan Tucker had one.

This was just the Bulldogs’ fifth ever win against Xavier in Cincinnati. The Musketeers lead the all-time series on their home court 23-5. Butler only won once at Xavier all of the last decade, in which they were 1-7 in such games.

Up next: Because of the outcomes of Big East games earlier in the day, Butler came into this game with its seed for the conference tournament already decided. The Bulldogs will have four days off from game action before playing the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. The fifth-seeded Bulldogs will take on four seed Providence at 2:30 p.m. ET on March 12 at Madison Square Garden. The winner will advance to take on the victor of the game between one seed Creighton and either nine seed St. John’s or eight seed Georgetown. The Bulldogs defeated the Friars 70-58 in Providence on Jan. 10. Playing without Aaron Thompson, Butler lost to Providence 65-61 at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Feb. 1.

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