Xavier blows 19-point lead, recovers to beat Butler

Desmond Claude had a season-high 26 points and Xavier overcame blowing a 19-point, first-half lead to regroup and beat Butler 85-71 on Tuesday night in Big East play at Cincinnati.

Dayvion McKnight scored 20 points for the Musketeers (9-8, 3-3 Big East), who appeared to be in control after shooting 56.7 percent, including 7-for-13 from beyond the 3-point arc, in the first half to lead by 14 at the break.

Xavier had been up 46-27 with 2:17 left in the half.

But Posh Alexander scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half for Butler (11-7, 2-5), which trailed 55-40 with 16:08 remaining in regulation. The Bulldogs then used a 20-3 push, highlighted by 11 straight points from Alexander, to come back.

Alexander’s second triple of back-to-back 3-pointers gave the Bulldogs a 60-58 lead with 11:01 left.

Yet, in a game of runs, it was Xavier that delivered the final answer, scoring the game’s next 13 points. That outburst included a three-point play from McKnight and the fourth of five made threes from Quincy Oliveri (15 points) as the Musketeers regained control to lead 71-60 after a pair of Claude free throws with 7:16 to go.

Xavier led by at least seven the rest of the way.

Butler used an 8-0 run to lead 11-5, then bumped it up to 16-8, getting 12 early points from Pierre Brooks, who finished with 22. The Bulldogs, who made five of their first eight shots, led 17-11 with 15:28 left in the first half.

However, the Musketeers scored 24 of the game’s next 26 points — while Butler missed 12 consecutive field-goal attempts — to lead 35-19. Xavier also put together an 11-0 run in the final minutes of the first half to build its 19-point cushion.

The Bulldogs scored the final five points of the first half and first five of the second to get within 46-37. Claude then stopped Butler’s spurt with a runner and, moments later, McKnight’s three-point play gave Xavier the 55-40 lead.

The Musketeers outshot the visitors 46.2 percent to 35.3 percent.