If Butler wants to make a move up the Big East Conference standings, this is the time to start its run.
The No. 19 Bulldogs defeated Xavier 66-61 on Wednesday to enter Saturday afternoon’s conference game against Georgetown in Indianapolis with momentum on their side.
The Bulldogs (19-6, 7-5) have won two of their last three contests and close out a two-game homestand against struggling Georgetown (14-10, 4-7). They will then hit the road to face off against Seton Hall and Creighton.
Butler coach LaVall Jordan said he was encouraged by the team’s toughness against Xavier.
“That’s a really good effort and a heck of a team win,” Jordan said. “Xavier has been playing really well and we knew it was going to be a battle. Our guys were ready for that. Jordan Tucker was great defensively and our big guys battled. Henry (Baddley) gave us a spark. Our seniors really stepped up.”
The Bulldogs reside three games behind conference leader Seton Hall (18-6, 10-2), while Creighton (19-6, 8-4) and Villanova (18-6, 8-4) are one game ahead of them in the Big East.
Butler managed to defeat Xavier despite in-game injuries to center Derrik Smits and guard Aaron Thompson (head). Smits, the son of former Indiana Pacers center Rik Smits, missed the first 10 games this season with a knee injury and sat out the final 5:16 with the same ailment.
The Bulldogs will need a healthy Smits and Thompson to build some momentum for the stretch run. Thompson has started 22 games, averaging 6.6 points and 5.0 assists, with Smits averaging 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds. Jordan said his team came together following the two injuries to key players in their rotation.
“Leadership and perseverance are big words in our locker room,” Jordan said. “When I was seeing about Aaron’s injury, these guys are leading the huddle and seeing what happens next.”
The Hoyas have struggled on the road, with three wins in seven true road games.
Georgetown will be well-rested against Butler after notching a quality win by defeating DePaul 76-72 last Saturday.
Junior guard Jahvon Blair recorded a career-high for the second time in three games by scoring 30 points against the Blue Demons. Blair is on a hot streak, averaging 24.0 points while playing all 80 minutes in the Hoyas last two games.
“This was a great team effort,” Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said after the DePaul win. “Everyone helped. Jahvon, he had 30 points, and we needed all 30 of them, but it wasn’t just his points. Guys stepped up, guys did everything that we needed for them to do. We still turned the ball over a little more than I wanted but it was a great win.”
Saturday’s game marks a contrast of styles between the two conference teams.
Georgetown likes to push the pace and ranks third in the conference in scoring, averaging 76.8 points per game while Butler is last at 68.8 points.
The Bulldogs allow a conference low 61.2 points, however, while the Hoyas are ranked last by giving up 73.2 points.
–Field Level Media