Graduate Manny Bates tied his season high with five blocks on the night. Photo by Claire Runkel.
MATTHEW CRANE | SPORTS CO-EDITOR | email@example.com
The Butler men’s basketball team upset the No. 13 Xavier Musketeers 69-67 off a scorching first-half shooting performance. The win put the Bulldogs on a two-game winning streak and moved the team’s record at Hinkle Fieldhouse to 10-4. The Musketeers dropped their third conference game of the year and snapped their two-game winning streak.
Sophomore guard Jayden Taylor led all scorers with 20 points and grabbed six rebounds. Two other Bulldogs’ starters joined Taylor in scoring double-digits. Graduate center Manny Bates scored 19 points on a sizzling 9-10 performance from the field to go along with five blocked shots. Sophomore guard/forward Simas Lukosius added 12 points of which 10 came in the first half.
Xavier was led by junior Colby Jones with 17 points and eight rebounds on 7-12 shooting from the field. Graduate Jack Nunge contributed 14 points and also grabbed eight rebounds. Senior Adam Kunkel and graduate Souley Boum scored 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Let’s go beyond the box score of Butler’s most thrilling win of the season.
A tale of two halves
In what was a very strange first half where both teams combined for 23 turnovers, the Bulldogs held the Musketeers to their lowest point total of the season. The Dawgs missed very few shots and shot 57.1% from three to jump out to a 35-21 lead. As a result of the turnovers, the lead could have possibly been even greater at halftime. Coach Thad Matta mentioned that ball security was a point of emphasis in his speech in the locker room at the half.
“I wrote on the board 66 and 12, Matta said. “I said does anybody know what that means? And they’re like no. I said well we are shooting 66% from the floor and we got 12 turnovers. We gotta do a better job taking care of the basketball.”
In the second half, the Bulldogs shot 44% and only turned it over four times but the Musketeers shot 60% from the field and scored 46 points. Even with those numbers, Matta was still encouraged by the second half.
“We didn’t make shots the way we did in the first half,” Matta said. “They kept competing, I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of this basketball team than I am tonight.”
If there was ever a time for Hinkle Fieldhouse to shine, it was certainly tonight. In what was one of the oddest endings to a game, the Bulldogs survived and fed off the energy of the crowd.
After Xavier hit a three-pointer to cut the Butler lead to 64-62, Xavier called their final timeout. With 23 seconds left in the game, Jayden Taylor drove down the floor and lost the ball which led to Jack Nunge gaining possession. Nunge rolled over and attempted to call a timeout his team did not have and was hit with a technical foul. Taylor sank both free throws to push the lead to four, but with 15 seconds left on the other end, Nunge hit a three-pointer which cut the deficit to one point.
Xavier used a foul to send Taylor to the line where he split the pair to put the Butler lead at 67-65. After the inbound, Taylor fouled Souley Boum which gave him two free throws. Typically in this situation, you would only foul up three points, but Taylor explained that he had gotten confused after being told once he made both free throws to foul once they are up three points.
“I assumed I was going to make both,” Taylor said. We’ve had situations where they are stressing to us foul, foul, foul, foul, foul. So I made sure after I make this free throw, I’m going to get it right this time. And then I got it wrong. Simple mistake.”
Regardless of Taylor’s intentions, Boum sunk both free throws, and the game was tied at 67 with nine seconds to go. On the inbound graduate guard, Eric Hunter Jr. went the length of the court and attempted a dunk that was blocked but was called goaltending on the floor. The referees went to review it and the call stood.
Boum was forced to attempt a desperation heave that hit the rim and did not go in. Hinkle Fieldhouse erupted as the students stormed the court in a fitting ending to a rivalry that never ceases to amaze.
Butler will take on the Villanova Wildcats at Finneran Pavilion in Villanova, Pennsylvania on Feb. 14. The Bulldogs won the first matchup between the two teams 79-71 earlier this season. The Wildcats will be coming off a home game against Seton Hall.