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Butler Looking For First Conference Win On the Road against Xavier

Chris Fultz
ISR Butler Beat Writer

BUTLER (10-3, 0-1 BIG EAST) vs. XAVIER (11-3, 1-0 BIG EAST)
Saturday, January 4, 2 p.m. (ET)
Cintas Center – Cincinnati, Ohio
TV: Fox Sports National (FSN)
Radio: 107.5 FM

INDIANAPOLIS, IN– New conference, familiar opponent. The Butler Bulldogs will look for their first BIG EAST win in their second conference game on the season against long time conference opponent Xavier. The Xavier Musketeers will host Butler for the first time as BIG EAST foes when the Bulldogs travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a 2 p.m. (ET) contest on Saturday, Jan. 4. The game at the Cintas Center will be televised on Fox Sports National. Butler and Xavier, located 120 miles apart, competed against each other in both the Horizon League and Atlantic 10 Conference before both joined the BIG EAST this year. The two schools were also charter members of the Midwestern City Conference (later renamed the Midwestern Collegiate Conference) and faced each other in that league from 1979 to 1995.

Butler is looking for its first BIG EAST victory, after opening the league season with a 76-73 setback in overtime against #11 Villanova on New Year’s Eve. The loss at Hinkle Fieldhouse snapped the Bulldogs’ five-game winning streak. Xavier was successful in its BIG EAST debut, posting a 70-60 victory over St. John’s at the Cintas Center in the first game of the BIG EAST New Year’s Eve Marathon. The Musketeers are 9-0 at home this season. Following the trip to Xavier, Butler will return to Hinkle Fieldhouse to host BIG EAST games against DePaul on Jan. 9, and Georgetown on Jan. 11.

Butler and Xavier are meeting for the 49th time in a series that spans three conferences. The Bulldogs won the last meeting between the two teams, but Xavier leads the series, 31-17. Butler closed out its 2012-13 regular season slate with a 67-62 victory over Xavier at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs, who led by as many as 10 points in the second half, had to rally from a 54-50 deficit in the final five minutes to secure the win. Kellen Dunham hit a pair of free throws to put Butler ahead, 62-60, with 0:43 left, and the Bulldogs held on by hitting five of six free throws in the final 20 seconds.

Elijah Brown (Photo by John Fetcho)
Elijah Brown (Photo by John Fetcho)

The Musketeers won the first meeting with Butler last season, 62-47, at the Cintas Center. Jeff Robinson led Xavier with 17 points, while Travis Taylor added 15 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Kellen Dunham, who came off the bench with 11 points, was the lone Butler player to score in double-figures. The game, part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, was a rare non-conference meeting between two league foes.

Butler is 1-2 at the Cintas Center. The Bulldogs won their first visit to Xavier’s home arena, 74-65, in 2008, before dropping decisions in 2010 (51-49) and last season.

Butler head coach Brandon Miller is returning to the place where his career started. After graduating from Butler in 2003, Miller accepted a position as a video intern under head coach Thad Matta at Xavier for the 2003-04 campaign. The Musketeers posted a 26-11 record and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight that season. The next year, Miller followed Matta to Ohio State as the Buckeyes’ Director of Basketball Operations.

Butler senior Khyle Marshall, who became the 15th Butler player to reach both 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds during the Bulldogs’ Thanksgiving trip to the Old Spice Classic in Florida, moved into 28th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list in Butler’s game against Villanova. Marshall was limited to just four points against the Wildcats, but he boosted his career scoring total to 1,118 points and moved ahead of Ken Pennington, 1957-60, on the all-time list. The 6-6 forward trails his head coach, Brandon Miller, 2000-03, in the No. 27 spot by just three points. A total of 35 players in Butler basketball history have scored 1,000 career points. Marshall also stands 21st on Butler’s all-time rebounding list with 542 career rebounds, six boards shy of Dave Sanders, 1962-65, in the No 20 position. Khyle Marshall was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll (Dec. 30) after scoring 21 points in Butler’s victory over NJIT.

Junior guard Alex Barlow will be competing in his home city of Cincinnati for the second straight year and for the first time as one of Butler’s lead players. Barlow, who played both basketball and baseball at Moeller High School, has been the starting point-guard in all 13 games for the Bulldogs this season, and he currently leads the team in assists and steals. In his most recent game against nationally-ranked Villanova, he led the Bulldogs in rebounds (9), assists (5) and steals (3), while scoring six points in 43 minutes of action. Barlow has started 36 Butler games since his last visit to the Cintas Center in the fall of 2012. He played 11 minutes that day and scored two points.

The Bulldogs will look for freshman guard Elijah Brown to pick up where he left off in the Villanova game against Xavier. Brown ignited the Bulldogs in the first half against Villanova and went on finish with a career-best performance. Brown came off the bench and scored 13 points in the opening 20 minutes. He added six points in the second half, including a three-point field goal that gave Butler a 64-63 lead with 5:23 remaining. His 19 points were a career-high and his first double-figures scoring performance since Nov. 29, when he came off the bench with 15 points against #5 Oklahoma State. Brown hit a career-high four three-point field goals and a career-best seven of eight free throws against Villanova. He also pulled down a career-high five rebounds and recorded a career-high three steals in a career-best 26 minutes against the Wildcats. Elijah Brown had the most points by a Butler freshman since Feb. 21, 2009, when Gordon Hayward scored 27 against Davidson.

Butler ranks third in the BIG EAST in scoring defense (63.5) and scoring margin (+11.5). The Bulldogs are second in the league in three-point FG% defense (.293) and third in turnover margin (+2.4).

Chris Fultz is the Butler beat writer for the Indy Sports Report. Follow Chris and the Indy Sports Report on Twitter.