Xavier dusted off his uniforms and had fun defeating Butler

We don’t know what the time away will do to a basketball team. He can fracture a team, steal its rhythm and make beautiful basketball a distant memory.

Or, maybe the absence really makes the heart more loving.

For Xavier’s men’s basketball team Friday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse, it was the latter. After 17 days without a match, Musketeers defeat Butler 87-72, leaving little doubt as to how much they missed to be on the floor.

Xavier only followed Butler for 27 seconds. The Bulldogs had a series of mini runs in the second half, trying to get back into the game, and Xavier denied all of those advances. The Musketeers ate Butler’s blows and never got angry or lost sight of. Xavier looked comfortable in battle and ready for battle. It was the most promising detail that emerged on Friday.

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“I thought we had good practice before… we were lucky enough to really focus on ourselves and make sure we were going to peak at the right time,” said Xavier head coach Travis Steele. “I think it’s so important because we didn’t know when the hell we were going to play at the start.”

With the win, Xavier goes 12-2 on the season and 2-1 in the Big East game.

Winning conference road games this season is like stealing. Here’s a look at how the Musketeers managed to secure a road victory at Butler.

Xavier Musketeers guard Paul Scruggs (1) coaches and teammates high fives as he leaves the game in the second half of the NCAA Men's Basketball game on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.  Xavier Musketeers defeated Butler Bulldogs 87-72.

The offense didn’t skip a beat

At the start of the game, Butler’s defense was allowing 60.8 points per game. Xavier scored 1.45 points per possession and scored on 63.3% of his possessions. On top of that, the Musketeers took care of the ball with six season turnovers.

Xavier went 10 of 22 at 3 points and 23 of 27 at the foul line. Anyone who expected an offensive rust after 17 days off came away confused because there was none at this end of the ground.

Adam Kunkel was sensational. The Cooper High School product across the river in northern Kentucky smothered a few Butler leads on its own. Game-high Kunkel’s 25 points came in 26 minutes of action and he threw dagger after dagger when his team needed him.

Xavier Musketeers goalie Adam Kunkel (5) leads Butler Bulldogs goalie Jayden Taylor (13) in the second half of the NCAA Men's Basketball game on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Xavier Musketeers defeated Butler Bulldogs 87-72.

Paul Scruggs was really good and he didn’t need a ton of punches to make an impact. Scruggs went 3 of 7 from the floor but went 9 of 9 from the foul line, finished with 16 points and added seven rebounds and six assists.

Indiana transfer Jerome Hunter has had his most effective performance since joining the Musketeers. Hunter hit a pair of 3s and finished with 12 points on six shot attempts in 24 minutes.

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“Our ball moved really well,” said Steele. “I didn’t think we had settled in. We played basketball inside and outside. I thought, for the most part, we had taken really good shots. And we took care of the Look, our offensive efficiency is going to skyrocket, and I said that, if we take care of the ball.

“… Tonight we worked the ball. We were a little more patient. I thought our execution was better. We shared the ball. Again, we have so much offensive firepower, if we do these things, we’re gonna get some really good shots and we’re gonna score a lot of points. ”

Defense wasn’t great

It’s hard to be overly critical after a 15-point conference road win, but Xavier’s defense fell short.

Butler scored 40 points in the paint and there were some long stretches where Xavier struggled to stop.

Most of it was a ball screen cover issue. The Musketeers had some trouble defending Butler’s high ball screens.

But it was also the product of Bryce Golden and Aaron Thompson, who had 39 points, being really good at what they do.

Xavier struggled to keep Thompson from coming down and Golden did as he wanted.

Xavier’s forward Zach Freemantle, who had a good offensive evening with 10 points on eight shots, once again struggled defensively. For a guy who was an All-Big East preseason first team selection, Freemantle has to be better on this side of the field. Sometimes it’s out of position, and other times it’s not providing the resistance needed to get stops.

It wasn’t just Freemantle, however. There were a number of Musketeers who missed out on missions and left Butler having open looks. Maybe it was the product of being inactive for so long, but whatever the case, Xavier needs to sort it out quickly as Villanova is next on the calendar and the Wildcats are playing their best basketball of the season. right now.

If Xavier is to try to win another Big East regular season title, Wednesday is a very important game in this pursuit, and that starts with putting attack and defense on the same page against a talented and disciplined Villanova side. .

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