Butler finishes strong vs. Xavier: Beyond the Box Score

Graduate forward John-Michael Mulloy and fifth-year center Jalen Thomas were honored before the game for senior night. Photo by Grace Hensley


Butler finished the year out strong at home, besting Xavier 72-66. The Dawgs improve to 18-13 overall and 9-11 in conference play. 

This win is huge for the Bulldogs as they head into postseason play. After going on a five game losing streak, Butler has strung together back-to-back victories against DePaul and now Xavier. Senior forward Jahmyl Telfort led the scoring with 18 points, but it was an even game from a points standpoint for the Dawgs. 

Butler started off hot, jumping out to a 20-4 lead in the first half and from there they never looked back. Xavier just never got their offense going enough to challenge the Dawgs, only cutting the deficit to four with seven seconds to go. 

In a momentum-building win for Butler, let’s go beyond the box score. 

Starting off hot 

The Bulldogs pounced on the Musketeers from the jump and got the Hinkle crowd into the game early. In a season where fast starts were hard to come by, the Dawgs got off the blocks quickly against Xavier. 

At the 18:29 mark in the first half the game was tight, 5-4 in favor of Butler. Then in a flash, the Bulldogs rattled off a 15-0 run to grab a 20-4 lead and drown Xavier in a sea of crowd noise. 

The Musketeers floundered from that point forward, only shooting 37.3% from the field and 30.8% from beyond the arc. On the other hand, Butler shot 40.5% from the field, but struggled from three, shooting only 29.4%. 

Going into a game and prioritizing a fast start begins a chain reaction for the rest of the contest. The Bulldogs got that chain reaction started tonight against their despised rival and did not think twice for the rest of the game. Senior center Jalen Thomas weighed in on the importance of the rivalry win. 

“I haven’t been here long but I hate Xavier too,” Thomas said. “Everybody knows this is the biggest rivalry.” 

Strong defense and surviving the drought 

When the Dawgs’ offense went ice cold with 4:46 left to go in the first half, it was Butler’s defense that stepped up. 

For 11 minutes and 17 seconds, the Bulldogs did not score a single point. In that span, Xavier went on a 12-2 run and cut the lead to five points. Usually that would spell doom for a team, but the Dawgs survived that drought due to their large lead and tough defense. The Bulldogs forced Xavier to commit 15 turnovers and had nine steals on the night. Head coach Thad Matta praised his team’s defensive effort. 

“We were really good defensively,” Matta said. “We didn’t allow them to get out in transition … I thought we had great energy, great activity.” 

Butler has a track record for being a streaky team. They score in bunches and like to string together dry spells. The key to surviving those tough shooting streaks is by playing tight, hard-nosed defense. That is exactly what the Bulldogs did against the Musketeers, and they came out with the win because of it. 


Related posts