CINCINNATI – No returning starters? Only eight scholarship players? Picked to finish ninth in the 16-team Atlantic 10? No problem for the Xavier Musketeers.
That was the message Jeff Robinson and his teammates wanted to deliver on national television Tuesday. They made their point. Robinson scored 17 points, and Travis Taylor added 15 and nine rebounds to help Xavier beat cold-shooting Butler 62-47.
"We aren't underdogs," Robinson said. "People think we're not going to have as good of a season, but this is a great group of guys."
They convinced Butler coach Brad Stephens.
"Hats off to Xavier," Stephens said. "Xavier was the better team. They were the better team, they had better players, they were better-coached. I see them having a great year. I laughed at that whole ninth-place thing. I thought that was pretty silly."
Justin Martin added 10 points for Xavier (2-0), and Dee Davis led a defensive effort that limited Butler (1-1) to a 36.5 shooting percentage (19 of 52), including 25 percent (7 of 28) in the second half.
Davis scored nine points while helping hold Butler guard Rotnei Clarke to seven points after he scored 21 in Butler's season-opening 74-59 victory over Elon on Saturday.
"I'm tired," Davis said. "He's a great player. I watched a lot of film and pushed through every ball screen."
Xavier focused on pushing the Bulldogs' shooters off the 3-point line, coach Chris Mack said, which led to Butler making just 4 of 18 from beyond the arc.
"The difference in the game was we gave them no open looks on 3-pointers," Mack said. "Dee did a really good job of not losing any concentration throughout."
"It takes a lot of focus and attention to detail to do what he did for (35) minutes," Stephens added. "It might've taken away from his offensive game a little bit. It can wear on a guy to chase those guys all over the place."
Xavier shot 50 percent (23 of 46), never trailed and led by 20 points late in the game, but Mack wasn't sure if that was because his Musketeers were trying to make a point.
"I don't know if it was a statement game as much as it was, 'We'd better be ready or we're going to get it handed to us,'" Mack said. "You know (Butler's) going to battle you tooth-and-nail."
Freshman Kellen Dunham led Butler with 11 points. Andrew Smith added nine points, all in 15 minutes of the first half after going scoreless in Butler's opener.
Playing before a crowd of 9,876 that showed up at the 10,250-seat Cintas Center for the rare late-afternoon weekday game, Xavier improved its overall record against Butler to 31-16. The Musketeers have won 10 of the last 12 games against the Bulldogs, including the last three.
Even though both teams are in the Atlantic 10, the game was not a conference matchup, because it was scheduled before Butler joined the A-10 this season. The teams are scheduled to meet in their regular-season finale March 9 in what will count as a conference game.
"We'll see if we can make up any ground in the next four months," Stephens said.
Robinson, who scored 16 points in Xavier's 117-75 season-opening victory over Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday, had 12 points in the first half as the Musketeers built a 32-18 lead before settling for a 36-29 halftime advantage. Xavier never trailed after Robinson sank a 17-foot jumper to snap 9-9 tie with 12:47 left in the first half. The Bulldogs made just one of their first 10 shots in the second half, allowing the Musketeers to open a 46-33 lead.
"My teammates were feeling me the ball in the right positions and encouraging me to shoot," Robinson said.