Kamar Baldwin scored the last three of his game-high 36 points on a pull-up jumper with 1.2 seconds left Saturday night, lifting Butler to a regular-season ending 72-71 Big East Conference win over Xavier in Cincinnati.
After Naji Marshall’s three-point play with 8.9 seconds remaining put the Musketeers (19-12, 8-10) ahead 71-69, Baldwin took the inbounds pass, dribbled down the right wing and used a ball screen from Bryce Nze to launch an open shot that hit nothing but net.
Sean McDermott stole the inbounds pass at midcourt to wrap up the game as the Bulldogs (22-9, 10-8) dealt a blow to Xavier’s hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The result dropped the Musketeers to the No. 7 seed for next week’s conference tournament, requiring them to win four games in as many nights to earn the league’s automatic NCAA bid.
Aaron Thompson scored 12 points for Butler, which connected on 49.1 percent of its shots and outrebounded Xavier, 35-31.
Marshall led four Musketeers in double figures with 21 points. Jason Carter scored 17, Tyrique Jones added 14 points and 13 rebounds, and KyKy Tandy came off the bench to net 10 points.
The rims took a beating during the first five minutes. At the first TV timeout 4:44 into the game, Butler owned a 2-0 lead on Baldwin’s putback jumper nearly three minutes in. Xavier didn’t score until Carter stuck a 3-pointer at the 15:04 mark.
Both teams found offensive footing shortly thereafter and proceeded at something approaching a normal clip. They swapped the lead for most of the half’s remainder, with the Bulldogs using a 6-0 spurt to grab a 23-18 edge on a McDermott free throw with 3:48 left.
The Musketeers were able to shave three points off that margin down the stretch, going into halftime trailing only 29-27 after Marshall sank a pair of free throws with 9.9 seconds remaining.
Xavier might have felt fortunate to be down just two, giving its 30 percent shooting in the half.
—Field Level Media