INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Trevon Bluiett made his final hometown appearance his best yet.
He scored 26 points, led his team back from the brink and eventually headed home with a win.
The former Indianapolis high school star scored 17 points in the final 14 minutes of regulation and overtime to help No. 5 Xavier rally from two embarrassing collapses and escape with a 98-83 win at Butler on Tuesday night.
“You’ve got to have confidence,” Bluiett said. “If you don’t have confidence, then nine times out of 10, you’re not going to make that shot. So I kind of take pride in getting that shot. Trying to at least make a play.”
Bluiett made more than a play; he made play after play as the Musketeers (22-3, 10-2 Big East) won their seventh straight overall and their third straight in the series, including a win earlier this season.
Without Bluiett, it might not have happened.
After watching his team blow an 18-point lead, suddenly trailing 62-56 with 9:14 to go and playing in the electric environment of a packed Hinkle Fieldhouse, Bluiett took matters into his own hands.
His 3-pointer on Xavier’s next possession quickly righted his teammates and spurred a 16-6 run over the next four minutes. Bluiett accounted for half of the points in the sequence as the Musketeers seemingly seized control.
They blew it again in the final minute of regulation as Butler (17-8, 7-5) charged back from an 82-75 lead to tie it at 84 on Kamar Baldwin’s 3 with 13 seconds left.
In overtime, Bluiett was back at it — scoring five straight points, the last coming on a 3 with 25 seconds to go for a 95-80 lead.
His entire family and a large group of friends were all there to see the night they will never forget.
“I’m happy for him. He’s played here four times. The first three I’m sure he’d like to wipe from his memory as far as individual performances,” coach Chris Mack said. “For him to do it as a senior in front of his family, I’m sure he feels great about that.”
Bluiett finished 6 of 9 on 3s, had five rebounds and three assists.
He had plenty of help, too. Kerem Kanter finished with 22 points and made the go-ahead layup in overtime to give Xavier the lead for good. Naji Marshall matched his career high with 15 points and Sean O’Mara tied his season high with 14 points.
Butler was led by Kelan Martin with 34 points and Sean McDermott with 17 and wound up making 14 of 31 from beyond the arc.
Yet they still came up short.
“It was a game where you had to keep responding and they did as well,” Bulldogs coach LaVall Jordan said. “This is a group that believes in each other, we all believe in them. If that’s who we decide we’re going to be, to fight like that, we’ll take it.”
Xavier: The Musketeers tore through Butler’s improved defense early. They took a 29-11 lead by shooting 75 percent from the field and when that number started reverting more to the norm, Bluiett saved the game.
Butler: The Bulldogs nearly completed a shocking comeback for a second straight home win over a Top 5 team. Instead, they gave up 84 points in regulation and another 14 in overtime. While the defense has made dramatic improvement over the previous five games, Jordan said it needs to get better before postseason play begins.
Xavier: Shot 66.7 percent from the field in the first half and finished at 59.3 percent. … The Musketeers made 10 of 21 3s after going 5 of 8 in the first 20 minutes. … Xavier had a 33-24 scoring advantage in bench points. … Kanter made 10 of his 15 shots while Bluiett was 7 of 15.
Butler: Had a four-game winning streak end. … The Bulldogs had held five straight opponents to fewer than 73 points. … Baldwin finished with 16 points and four assists. … Nate Fowler, who attended high school in Cincinnati, had 10 points before fouling out in overtime.