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No. 22 Butler pulls away late to 88-79 win over Xavier

No. 22 Butler pulls away late to 88-79 win over Xavier

By Joe Kay, Associated Press | Posted - Feb. 26, 2017 at 5:06 p.m.

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CINCINNATI (AP) — No. 22 Butler came up with a fitting encore on the road.

Kelan Martin had another big game, scoring 25 points, and the Bulldogs followed their biggest road win of the season with yet another on Sunday, pulling away in the closing minutes for an 88-79 victory over Xavier.

The Bulldogs (23-6, 12-5 Big East) were coming off a 74-66 victory at No. 2 Villanova, one of the biggest road wins in their history. They kept the momentum with a strong finish, outscoring Xavier 19-8 down the stretch for their fourth straight win.

"It's an incredibly significant accomplishment, to come on the road and get two wins against this quality of opponent and to have the season that we've had up to this point," coach Chris Holtmann said. "I don't want to brush that aside."

Neither team led by more than six points before Butler's closing spurt, which featured four steals by the Bulldogs. It was Butler's first win at the Cintas Center since the 2008-09 season.

"Two huge wins against two great programs," said Andrew Chrabascz, who had 11 points and six assists. "That helps us out tremendously."

Xavier (18-11, 8-8) has lost five in a row, its deepest slump in 35 years. The Musketeers dropped six straight in 1981-82 under coach Bob Staak.

The Musketeers' slide coincides with top scorer Trevon Bluiett suffering a sprained ankle. He was back for the second straight game and led with 21 points.

The game had seven ties and 17 lead changes. Xavier was up 71-69 with 5:43 to go but couldn't hold onto the ball. Four players had turnovers in the last 4 minutes, helping the Bulldogs pull away.

"At the end of the game, they ramped up their intensity," said Xavier's Sean O'Mara, who scored seven points.


Butler: Martin has averaged 20 points during the four-game winning streak. He had 22 points and eight rebounds in the win over Villanova, including nine points during an 18-0 run in the second half.

"We've got so many weapons, it's hard to guard," Martin said. "We move the ball around. The past four games, we've done a pretty good job of that."

Xavier: The depleted Musketeers lost another player to injury temporarily. Forward Kaiser Gates went to the bench with 14:05 left to get his right thigh treated and barely played the rest of the way, finishing with five points.


The two impressive road wins put the Bulldogs in position for a major jump this week. They were No. 16 in the poll released on Jan. 30 but have lingered near the back of the pack in the last few weeks.


The freshman guard scored 21 points in the second half of the Bulldogs' 83-78 victory over Xavier on Jan. 14. He scored 11 in the second half on Sunday.


The Musketeers have struggled on offense since point guard Edmond Sumner tore an ACL last month. Freshman point guard Quentin Goodin had 11 points, seven assists and six of Xavier's 11 turnovers, including one in the closing minutes that allowed Butler to pull ahead by eight points.


O'Mara got a technical foul in the second half for kicking the basketball away after Butler scored.

"That's probably one of the dumbest things I've done in a Xavier uniform," O'Mara said.


Butler: The Bulldogs close their regular season by hosting Seton Hall on Saturday. They won 61-54 at Seton Hall on Jan. 25.

Xavier: The Musketeers host Marquette on Wednesday. They lost 83-61 at Marquette on Feb. 18 with Bluiett on the bench.


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Joe Kay


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