Xavier collapses, loses to Butler in overtime

NEW YORK – Xavier’s men’s basketball team fell apart in devastating fashion Wednesday night in an overtime loss to Butler, 89-82, in the first round of the Big East Conference tournament at Madison Square Garden .

Xavier led Butler 66-60 with 52 seconds left in regulation.

It was then that the plane that was comfortably flying towards the finish line for what would have been a season-extending victory, crashed in a way the Musketeers will long remember.

“A heartbreaking loss for us,” said Xavier head coach Travis Steele, who has witnessed heartbreaking first-round defeats in the Big East Tournament for three consecutive years. “I thought we were the better team for 39 minutes. But unfortunately we couldn’t finish the game at the very end.”

Butler’s Chuck Harris, a thorn in Xavier’s side all night, went 66-62 on a tough shot in the paint with 43 seconds left. Harris was fouled on the shot and missed a free throw to make it a 3-point play.

Xavier grabs the rebound and calls timeout. When the Musketeers touched the ball out of time, Butler immediately fouled fifth-year lead point guard Paul Scruggs.

Scruggs went to the line with his team ahead 66-62 – 40 seconds left – and missed both free throws. The second miss shot hard enough from the edge into the hands of Colby Jones for an offensive rebound. Butler immediately fouled Jones, who followed Scruggs to the line and missed both of his free throws with 38 seconds left.

On a timeout from Butler, Scruggs fouled a driving Harris, who went to the line and made both free throws, cutting Xavier’s lead to 66-64 with 29 seconds left.

Xavier Musketeers guard Colby Jones (3) reacts to a foul in the second half of the first round of the NCAA Big East Conference Championship Tournament between the No. 8 Xavier Musketeers and the No. 9 Butler Bulldogs at Madison Square Garden in New York on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. The Butler Bulldogs advanced with an 89-82 overtime win over the Xavier Musketeers.

As Xavier tried to get the ball in, Scruggs was called for an offensive foul, trying to create a split on Butler’s Aaron Thompson.

Harris took the extra possession and tied the game, 66-66, with a layup that left 24 seconds on the clock.

With the game in play, Xavier went to Scruggs, who ran the clock low, drove him left, then crossed the lane and completed a circus shot which also resulted in a foul on the play.

Scruggs went to the line, a 3-point chance with eight seconds left and missed the free throw.

Butler’s Simas Lukosius grabbed the rebound and immediately ran down the field, his team trailing 68-66.

It was then that Scruggs reached and fouled Lukosius with four seconds left, sending him to the free throw line, where he hit both and tied the game, forcing overtime.

“If we’re ahead by three, we’re supposed to be in what we call ‘smack,’ which is a foul around half the pitch, so the team can’t get a 3,” Steele said. “But Paul, I don’t know if he got the score wrong. We were only two points ahead. He missed the free throw…and he fouled obviously. And they hit in both free throws.You’re not supposed to foul when you’re up by two.

The Musketeers went 0 for 5 from the foul line in the final 40 seconds of regulation and finished 13 for 29 on free throws in the game.

“We have to make our free throws,” Steele said. “I don’t know what happened tonight, unfortunately, on our free throws, but obviously that was a big reason why we lost.”

Scruggs’ foul at the end of regulation was his fifth, ending his night.

Once in overtime, Xavier had nothing resembling an answer for Lukosius, who scored 12 of his 27 points in the extra frame.

This is the third straight season that Xavier has been in the NCAA Tournament bubble and lost in the first round of the conference tournament. This is the second straight year that Xavier has lost to Butler in overtime with his season on the line.

“I wish it was up to us, I wish we were still playing,” Steele said. “It is what it is. Now it’s in other people’s hands. When you’re not in control of your own destiny, I mean, you’re constantly on edge. It puts a hole in your stomach. .

“…Hopefully we get in there because I think we’re a team that can move up and really do some damage in the NCAA Tournament.”

Xavier has lost eight of his last 10 games. The Musketeers are 18-13 overall. The next four days will be a long wait until Selection Sunday.

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