Game #9-056: Butler at Xavier MusketeersNovember 13, 2012 4:00 pm
Since around this time last year, Butler fans and Xavier fans knew that their teams would meet on November 13, 2012 at 4 p.m. in Cintas Center. Both schools had agreed to play a home-and-home series as part of ESPN's Tip-Off Hoops Marathon, continuing a recently-renewed rivalry from the old Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League.
In the four prior meetings since the series' renewal, Xavier and Butler split the four meetings. In 2008, Butler ended Xavier's long non-conference home winning streak. 2009 brought the infamous "clockgate
" at Hinkle, an event the majority of Xavier fans still haven't gotten over.
The teams would cross paths in Salt Lake City in the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament, with Xavier taking Kansas State to double overtime before losing, but weakening the Wildcats enough for Butler to win and go home to the Final Four as documented in One Beautiful Season
. There was the revenge game
at Cintas in 2010 that Xavier won by two. Last season, Xavier controlled the game
at Hinkle before losing their swagger in the Crosstown Throwdown.
The rivalry would be turned up to 11 in March though. Butler announced that it would be leaving the Horizon League and joining the Atlantic 10. The move was not supposed to happen until 2013-14, when Temple and Charlotte would leave and VCU would join Butler to keep the league at 14 teams. However, VCU was banned from all 2012-13 league championships by the CAA, a move the remaining Horizon League schools tried to do to Butler. Both schools were able to negotiate early exits, and announced in May that they would join the Atlantic 10 early, starting in 2012-13.
With much of the schedules already made, and with the league now consisting of 16 teams for the current year, some schedule maneuvering was required. The Atlantic 10 only plays a 16-game league schedule. Instead of expanding the league schedule, the Atlantic 10 decided that the league would effectively be a single round-robin, with teams only playing a local rival twice.
Since Butler is the closest school to St. Louis, Butler will play St. Louis twice in conference play. Xavier will play I-75 rival Dayton twice. With Butler and Xavier only playing one conference game, the Tip-Off Marathon game would be played as a non-conference game, with the return game in March at Hinkle counting in the conference standings.
Butler's off-season wasn't smooth either. Chrishawn Hopkins, who was expected to have a breakout year, was dismissed from the team for repeated violations of team rules., The last incident in September was a senseless campus prank. Freshman Chris Harrison-Docks decided to transfer on the eve of the home opener after receiving little playing time in Butler's two exhibition games.
Surprisingly, for such an anticipated game, the game didn't sell out. Xavier doesn't have a lot of tickets to sell, Xavier has over 7,100 season-ticket holders, and reserves around 1,100 tickets for students. Once you throw in tickets for staff, players' families, etc., that only leaves 1,500 tickets or so left to fill Cintas Center's capacity of 10,250. Around 400 seats, including the one next to me, went unfilled.
Maybe it was the 4 p.m. tip and folks not being able to get to the game had an effect. Cincinnati is notoriously a bad city to get around during rush hour, which in Cincy lasts from 3 p.m. all the way until 7 p.m. it seems. Or maybe it was the outrageous $40 ticket price for all seats, including those in the upper deck. The game was dubbed a "premium game" by Xavier, meaning the prices were higher than usual. Not that Xavier tickets are cheap normally, it's usually $30 for an upper-deck seat. Many NBA teams have cheaper tickets.
Cincinnati has no NBA team, but the environment in Cintas can feel like one. Each fan was handed a foam glow baton at the gate and was encouraged to turn them on for player introductions. It did create a cool effect as the Xavier starting lineup was announced.
The game was certainly as physical as you would expect a rivalry would be. Without a star, Xavier played a team-based game that was different then previous Xavier teams. No player seemed to try to do more than they were capable of. A prime example was center Eric Stenger. Stenger, a transfer from then-Division II Northern Kentucky, only played 16 minutes and scored no points. But his role is to be a human wrecking-ball - diving on the floor, playing defense and making all the effort plays that matter.
Stenger's example was certainly followed by the rest of the Musketeers. Xavier employed high-pressure on the outside, forcing Rotnei Clarke, a transfer from Arkansas to take bad shots or give the ball up. Clarke was named the top shooter in the nation by many national sports columnists, but the pressure limited Clarke to just 1-for-4 shooting from behind the arc. Freshman Kellen Dunham, another sharpshooter who led all Indiana high school players last season in scoring, was slightly more successful at 1-for-3.
Xavier, sharing the ball well with eight assists on their 14 first-half baskets, steadily built a lead. Jeff Robinson, showed some unexpected range, hitting several shots from 15 feet or longer, including a three-pointer. His 12 first-half points were key in Xavier taking a double-digit lead.
The extreme outside pressure did allow Butler senior center Andrew Smith some opportunities. The remaining member of the Glue Sticks
went 4-for-5, including a superhoop near the end of the half to cut a 14 point Xavier lead in half.
The entertainment during time-outs seemed more NBA level than mid-major as well. The Xavier band, who does a decent job, rarely gets to play. Generally, canned music dominates timeouts as gift cards for Cincinnati-style chili are dropped via parachute from the rafters or fans are asked trivia questions or asked to follow the X logo behind logos of a certain national bank. Plenty of schools have t-shirt tosses with cheerleaders throwing shirts or maybe a slingshot. Xavier, upping the arms race as always, has a full-blown t-shirt Gatling gun.
With a premium game, the atmosphere requires premium halftime show. Thankfully, Xavier delivered on that front. Krystal Liu, the Red Panda acrobat, worked her wonders once again. One bowl flipped, two bowls flipped, three bowls flipped, four bowls flipped, five bowls flipped. Fifteen in total. All in dim lighting, while riding a unicycle, while wearing high heels. No big whoop.
The second half would be an even more unpleasant experience for those who made the trip down I-74 from Indy. The bad Butler offense that had shown it's face at times the past two seasons, made another appearance. Butler would only make seven baskets in the second half, only two of which were assisted. Eighteen points and 25 percent shooting are not the ingredients for a comeback. Xavier's defense cranked up the energy even more with each successive stop.
Butler coach Brad Stevens tried out every combination of players he could think of, but you could see his disgust with the lack of effort and execution. The Xavier lead would continue to grow. A Brad Redford three would give Xavier a 60-40 lead with 4:28 left. Each team's bench would see lots of action in the final four minutes, and Xavier cruised to a 62-47 victory.
at XAVIER 62, BUTLER 47
It always hurts to lose a heated rivalry game, but Butler fans can take some solace in knowing that this game doesn't mean much. The stakes on March 9, 2013, will be much higher. For the first time since March of 1995, that game against Xavier will effect the record inside the parentheses. If this game was turned up to 11, the game in March will be cranked up to 12.
BUTLER 1-1 (0-0) -- R. Clarke 3-11 0-0 7; K. Dunham 4-7 2-3 11; R. Jones 1-3 1-2 3; A. Smith 4-8 0-2 9; K. Marshall 3-10 1-2 7; K. Woods 1-1 0-0 2; E. Fromm 2-5 1-3 6; A. Barlow 1-2 0-0 2; C. Stigall 0-2 0-0 0; J. Aldridge 0-1 0-0 0; D. Morgan 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-1 0-0 0; A. Smeathers 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-52 5-12 47.
XAVIER 2-0 (0-0) -- D. Davis 2-6 4-4 9; T. Taylor 7-10 1-4 15; J. Robinson 7-13 2-3 17; J. Martin 3-6 4-4 10; S. Christon 1-2 0-0 2; B. Redford 3-4 0-0 9; E. Stenger 0-1 0-2 0; L. Amos 0-0 0-0 0; K. Coker 0-0 0-0 0; J. Farr 0-2 0-0 0; J. Schuessler 0-0 0-0 0; T. Whelan 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-46 11-17 62.
Three-point goals: BUTL 4-18 (R. Clarke 1-7; C. Stigall 0-2; A. Smith 1-2; E. Fromm 1-2; A. Smeathers 0-1; A. Barlow 0-1; K. Dunham 1-3), XU 5-17 (B. Redford 3-4; J. Robinson 1-5; J. Martin 0-2; D. Davis 1-4; J. Farr 0-2); Rebounds: BUTL 28 (R. Jones 7), XU 29 (T. Taylor 9); Assists: BUTL 9 (R. Clarke 5), XU 14 (S. Christon 8); Total Fouls -- BUTL 18, XU 14; Fouled Out: BUTL-None; XU-None.