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Xavier upsets Butler in Big East quarters

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NEW YORK — The rivalry between Xavier and Butler just became a little more intense after the Musketeers upset the No. 22 Bulldogs 67-61 in overtime in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

Third-seeded Xavier (20-12) will meet 23rd-ranked Georgetown on Friday. Fourth-ranked Villanova, the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, faces defending tournament champion Providence in the other semifinal.

The Big East tournament championship game is Saturday.

The Musketeers have won seven of nine meetings over Butler since the beginning of 2010-11 and handed Butler its most lopsided loss this season, 73-56 on Feb. 21. Butler and Xavier have competed against each other in three different conferences over the past 36 years — the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, the Atlantic 10 and the Big East.

“It seems like every time we play Butler it’s a gritty game,” said Xavier coach Chris Mack. “I told our guys that everybody was talking about the Butler-Georgetown semifinal and I thought that was a little disrespectful because they (Butler) had to play us first.”

Xavier was 8 of 12 from the foul line in the overtime, helping the Musketeers slip past Butler (22-10), which made just two field goals in the extra session.

“People have said this is a rivalry,” said Butler coach Chris Holtmann. “Obviously the location is unique and we recruit against each other. I know our guys were particularly excited to play against them.”

Just 115 miles separate the Butler campus in Indianapolis to Xavier in Cincinnati.

A traditional three-point play from Xavier forward Jalen Reynolds in the overtime gave the Musketeers a 59-56 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. His free throw on the next possession made it 60-56 with 2:29 to go.

Freshman guard Trevon Bluiett hit a free throw for a 61-58 Xavier advantage at the 1:40 mark of overtime. He missed the second shot, but Musketeers forward Matt Stainbrook grabbed the rebound and guard Myles Davis’ layup increased the Xavier lead to 63-58 with 1:03 to play.

“We made some big-time plays at the end of the game and in overtime,” said Mack. “Jalen (Reynolds) has a lot of confidence. He’s one of the toughest matchups in our conference.”

Guard Alex Barlow led the Bulldogs with 22 points.

Xavier got 13 points apiece from guards Myles Davis and Dee Davis and center Matt Stainbrook.

With Butler leading 49-46 with 4:18 left in regulation, the two rivals traded baskets until a 3-pointer from Bluiett tied at 53-53 with 2:37 to play.

A basket from Stainbrook got the Musketeers to 45-43 with 6:56 to play, then a free throw from guard Remy Abell drew Xavier to 45-44.

The Bulldogs opened the second half with an 11-1 spurt, taking a 39-31 lead in the first four minutes. Barlow led the attack with five points.

Xavier overcame a 12-2 start by the Bulldogs to lead 30-28 at the half.

Davis paced Xavier with eight points in the first half. His 3-pointer with six seconds to go put the Musketeers up at the intermission.

Barlow topped the Bulldogs with 11 points, converting three of his four 3-point shots.

NOTES: Butler G Alex Barlow was selected as the Big East men’s basketball scholar-athlete of the year for the second straight season. He ranks second in the Big East and 18th in the NCAA in in steals per game (2.17). … The teams split two regular-season meetings, each winning on their home court. … Butler has won 20 games for the 20th time in school history. … This was the 53rd game between the two schools. … Butler tied the fourth-best turnaround in Big East history with its 12-6 conference record. The Bulldogs were 4-14 last season, its first in the conference. … Xavier has finished .500 or better in conference play for a nation’s-best 33 straight years. … Xavier F Trevon Bluiett leads all Big East freshman in scoring at 12.2 points per game.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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