February 20, 2015

It didn't take long for both Xavier and Butler to find out life in the Big East this season will be an entirely different environment than non-conference play.

With each looking to turn the page after losing its league opener, the two top-10 teams square off Saturday in Cincinnati.

The euphoria over a school-record 12-0 start that vaulted the No. 6 Musketeers to the highest ranking in program history quickly subsided during the early stages of Thursday's game at Villanova when guard Edmond Sumner was removed from the court on a stretcher following a frightening collision with the Wildcats' Kris Jenkins.

Clearly shaken by the loss of the key freshman, Xavier was dealt its worst loss in coach Chris Mack's seven seasons with a 95-64 drubbing by the 16th-ranked Wildcats.

Sumner, second on the team at 11.7 points per game, was released from a Philadelphia-area hospital later that day and traveled with the team back to Cincinnati, though it's doubtful he'll play Saturday.

"Long term, he's going to be fine," Mack said. "He was walking and talking. Has a horrendous headache."

The Musketeers' next concern will be tightening a defense that was shredded by Villanova, which hit 13 of 25 attempts from 3-point range and shot 63.2 percent overall. Xavier had held opponents to 39.4 percent during its unbeaten run.

Butler (11-2, 0-1 Big East) presents another challenge, ranking among the national leaders in points per game (88.6) and field-goal percentage (50.4) while boasting four players averaging at least 12.8 points.

"We've got to put this one behind us," Mack said. "We've got just as good of a team coming into Cintas (Center) on Saturday and our players recognize that. They know how tough-minded Butler is, how talented they are."

The Bulldogs, however, are coming off one of their poorer performances in an 81-73 loss to No. 12 Providence on Thursday that halted their eight-game win streak. Butler took an 11-point lead into the break but finished a season-worst 3 of 17 from 3-point range and shot 35.0 percent while being outscored 56-37 in the second half.

"We did not have a good approach coming out at halftime and that was my fault," coach Chris Holtmann said. "I really felt we were not as aggressive or as alert as we needed to be coming out at halftime, and that's on me."

Top scorer Kellen Dunham continued his slump by going 3 of 14 for eight points. Forward Andrew Chrabascz, who shot 67.6 percent over the previous five games, had four on 2-of-11 shooting.

Dunham, third in school history with 238 3-pointers, is 0 of 21 from beyond the arc and 7 of 47 (14.9 percent) overall while averaging 5.8 points over his last four. The senior averaged 19.1 points through the first nine games.

Xavier held the Bulldogs to 35.1 percent shooting in a 73-56 home victory Feb. 21, avenging an 88-76 loss in Indianapolis a month earlier. The Musketeers also edged Butler 67-61 in overtime in last season's Big East Tournament quarterfinals.

The Bulldogs are 1-4 at Cintas Center, where they've dropped four straight since a 74-65 non-conference win Dec. 23, 2008. They won 78-76 at then-No. 17 Cincinnati on Dec. 2 in their only true road game this season.

Xavier handed Cincinnati a 66-55 loss at Cintas on Dec. 12.

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