By: Josh Bozzick ~Staff Writer~
After a three game skid, a string of games that saw the Musketeers succumb to consecutive losses for the first time all season, a bounce back performance was important to keep any hope of a top finish in the Big East alive.
The three game losing streak began Jan. 17 with a home loss against first place DePaul, and ended with two losses on a short road trip to the land in and around New York City. Xavier (15-6, 6-4 Big East) lost both games in the “Big Apple” to Seton Hall and St. John’s. The games were two days apart.
Neither contest was particularly close during the skid, as the average margin of point differential in the three losses was just above 16 points per contest. Thus, seeing that the next game was a home tilt against conference rival Butler must have been a pleasant feeling of relief for the Musketeers. What better way is there to end a losing skid than by playing a game against one of your bigger rivals among the hometown faithful?
Butler (7-14, 2-8 BE) came into the Cintas Center sporting a losing record, good for ninth place in the Big East conference. Xavier was sure to be licking their wounds from the previous three games, and Butler was the bandage they needed to help begin the healing process.
The Musketeers won the first quarter, but went into the locker room at halftime down 29-26. After three quarters of play, the story of the game remained largely the same as Xavier was still trailing 46-41.
What no one saw coming was the opposite fourth quarter performances for both teams. Butler was held to one point the entire quarter, and Xavier put up 14 points in the final quarter. The final score was 55-47 Musketeers.
After shooting a subpar 40 percent from the field in the first half, the Butler Bulldogs only shot 19.4 percent in the second half. Due in large part to a terrific defensive effort by the Musketeers in the last quarter, where Butler shot an abysmal 0-16.
The rebounding edge went to Xavier 47-43. Junior forwards Maddison Blackwell and Leah Schaefer led Xavier in the trenches, grabbing 13 and 11 rebounds respectively.
Senior guard Aliyah Zantt matched her career high in points with 24 and shot a solid 53 percent from the field and an unconscious 60 percent from three. Her six baskets from beyond the line were the only threes Xavier hit all game.
The Musketeers look to build off this win with two home games next week. They will host the Providence Friars on Friday night and the Creighton Bluejays Sunday afternoon.