Muskies Road Travails Continue!! Let's Focus Squarely on Creighton!!
Andy Mac Williams,
OK!! Let's not beat a dead horse!!! Xavier succumbed twice in monster road games over the last few days. 79-54 at Villanova Tuesday and 83-78 Saturday afternoon at Butler. Big East road teams are 7-20 so far so Xavier is not alone. VU now owns a 46 game win streak at their little Pavilion with 4 of those wins blow-outs over Xavier. Butler is now 10-0 at historic Hinkle with 5 Top 25 wins(IU,UC,Arizona,Villanova and now Xavier).
Nobody said this road stuff would be easy!!! Xavier's now 1-4 in true away games,but check out the cailbre of opponent(at Baylor#1,at Villanova#3,at Butler #12 and at Colorado 5,000 feet above sea level).At least,Xavier has that win at Georgetown to hold onto.
No excuses-Villanova was a meltdown mess after the first 12 minutes.The Muskies were outscored 63-30 over the last 28 minutes-settled for contested threes and let the Nova guards cut the packline defense to shreds.The 1-3-1 zone was useless in Philly.
The Butler effort was much better. XU played a simple effective road style in the first half-concentrating on straight line drives-getting to the FT line and limiting Butler to one shot and done. The final 1:20 of the first half was the killer though. Xavier had solidly crafted a 31-22 lead,but they missed two easy FG tries in that last time frame and the Bulldogs drained a wing three pointer in transition. That's about a five point swing the wrong way turning a potential 33-22 double digit cushion into the actual score 31-25.
Give Butler credit!! They amped up the defense and found Frosh guard Kamar Baldwin after halftime(a career high 21 points after the break) and erased that 6 point lead in less than 3 minutes. He's quick but Xavier gave Baldwin free reign to the hoop. He was no secret(winning shot against Northwestern-huge plays in the upset of Villanova),but XU just had no answer.
BU's foul trouble sort of forced Coach Chris Holtman to leave Baldwin on the floor and he dominated.The numbers don't lie. Xavier defense did not show up after halftime. Villanova scored 45 and Butler a whooping 58 points.Both teams fouled profusely. BU had 5 more FT makes to win by 5. XU could not get any key defensive stops.
To win on the road your best players have to be your best players. Trevon Bluiett shot 4 for 21 at Villanova and Butler combined. J.P Macura was tagged with 7 turnovers at Butler.
3-2 in the Big East is good enough right now for 4th(tied with Marquette). MU has to play at Butler on MLK Day while Xavier pulls into a tie with Creighton at 4-2 if the Muskies can knock off the Blue Jays Monday afternoon(2PM-FS1).
CU is rolling-averaging 88PPG(Top 10 NCAA). They're playing a modified "LET IT FLY" style now with fewer three pointers than the salad days of Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge two years ago. Creighton is making a higher percentage from three(41%-#4 NCAA).
They mix in a ton of fast break lay-ups and dunks for a very potent efficient lethal offense. PG Maurice Watson leads the nation in assists. He killed Xavier with 32 points in Omaha last season. Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster is a scoring machine at shooting guard(18PPG). 7 foot 230 Pound RS Frosh Center Justin Patton may be the best BIG in the Big East(14PPG). He's already included in NBA draft projections. Fellow Omaha HS product Khyri Thomas has blossomed as a solid Soph(12PPG). Senior Cole Huff(9PPG) is the other starter.
Creighton is 4-0 in road games. They own a win over Wisconsin. Their lone loss is to Villanova(80-70). Depth might be an issue with Toby Hegner(Forward) and Isaiah Zierden(Guard) the prime subs. Veteran BIG Zach Hanson is out with a knee injury. CU doesn't foul much though. The starters comfortably play 30-35 minutes even at their fast pace.
XU has never really had an easy game against CU in the New Big East(3-4 record over three seasons). Greg McDermott is a master coach. His teams hang around and win-win-win. CU is now a trendy Final Four pick with their best start ever(17-1). They played second fiddle to Wichita State in the old Missouri Valley. Now second fiddle to Villanova in the Big East could add up to a deep NCAA Run.
XU needs to protect the home court like every other top tier BE team(9-0 at Cintas so far-won 24 of the last 25 at home). Better defense against Creighton's experienced quick guards is a "must". Patton is a nimble moose inside also. This will not be easy!!
Edmond Sumner should be OK despite the short turn around. Chris Mack has done some of his best turn-around prep work in less than 48 hours. Expect more of that!! Xavier 84-Creighton 79!!!