Colby Jones and Zach Freemantle each authored double-doubles Sunday night as host Xavier snapped a two-game losing streak with a 63-51 Big East Conference win over shorthanded Butler in Cincinnati.
Freemantle scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Musketeers (12-4, 5-4), while Jones added 13 points and 11 boards. Jason Carter contributed 10 points, and Big East assist leader Paul Scruggs dished out six, matching his average.
Freshman Chuck Harris scored 14 points for the Bulldogs (7-13, 6-11) but made only 3 of 15 shots, mirroring his team’s struggles. Playing without three starters, Butler converted just 29.5 percent of its field goals, including a dismal 6 of 31 from the 3-point line.
Jair Bolden added 12 points and Bryce Golden chipped in 10 points and 12 rebounds, helping the Bulldogs out-rebound Xavier 42-39. That helped keep them in the game without much firepower or manpower.
Butler trailed just 49-45 with 5:10 left when Golden converted two free throws, but a lack of offense finally caught up with it. Dwon Odom’s 3-point play at the 4:25 mark kicked off a game-ending 14-6 run that kept the Musketeers from suffering a potentially damaging blow to their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes.
The storyline as tip-off approached was Butler’s major injury problems. Already without starting forward Bryce Nze (groin) and starting guard Bo Hodges (calf), the Bulldogs learned before tipoff that senior point guard Aaron Thompson (shoulder) would also sit out.
Xavier looked ready to make it a long night for Butler when it established a 16-6 lead at the 11:49 mark of the first half on a dunk by Nate Johnson. But the Musketeers weren’t able to land an early knockout punch, and the Bulldogs fought back.
Bolden drilled a midrange jumper with 5:12 left, capping an 18-5 run that gave them a 24-21 advantage. While Xavier responded with nine consecutive points, Butler didn’t fold and used Myles Tate’s short jumper with 0.7 seconds remaining to head to halftime down only 33-31.