Muskies Right the Ship!! Handle the Hoyas!!
Andy Mac Williams,
The speed bumps-hurdles and negatives were lining up again Xavier as they prepared for their Sunday afternoon Cintas Center showdown on CBS against Georgetown. XU had lost three in a row in the Big East.They entered the day 5th in the conference(3-3) a half game back of high scoring Marquette(4-3). The Golden Eagles had out run Creighton 102-94 Saturday in Omaha. MU put 7 players into double figures in a scary good shooting display. The Muskies had to deal with Myles Davis' departure. The flu bug was ripping through the team. PG Edmond Sumner was fighting through a sore left shoulder and the flu. Somebody claimed on-line that Kaiser Gates had a boot on one of his feet?? I guess they forgot to mention it was a wardrobe fashion statement choice. Bad news was cascading seemingly. Xavier coaches and players dealt with the adversity and put together a feisty-focused-efficient total roster performance-bouncing a desperate Georgetown team(now 10-10,1-6 Big East) 86-75.
XU had rallied to beat GU 81-76 New Years Eve in DC. The Muskies followed the same script at Cintas attacking the rim-parading to the Ft line-dominating the rebound numbers and winning the lions share of 50-50 balls. In Game 2 versus the Hoyas Xavier got a much needed virtuoso contribution from Trevon Bluiett.He struggled in DC. Trevon thrived at Cintas(24 points-5 rebounds-3 for 6 from three-7 for 9 FTs). Tre attacked the basket first and let the driving game set up his wing three attempts.
J.P. Macura seemed a man possessed(20 points-5 rebounds-4 assists-3 steals-10 for 14 FTs). He was a constant pest-diving-darting-disrupting. J.P. went on a personal 10 point run to open the second half helping XU establish a 52-40 lead.
G-town showed grit fighting back to tie it at 58 all. Coach JT 111 used all his bullets-going zone-pressing-dipping deep down his bench. Juco transfer Jonathon Mullmore took over at PG. Reggie Cameron played heavy minutes. Nothing ultimately worked for the talented but hard to figure Hoyas. XU got great play down the stretch from Bluiett and then Sumner who blocked out the shoulder pain and took the ball to the rim with vigor. Malcolm Bernard applied the ultimate dagger burying a long wing three pointer to put Xavier ahead 77-64 much as he had done late in the Muskie win at Georgetown. Bernard scored 12 and was perfect in pressure FTs(4-4).
HUGE TEAM NUMBERS:
The Xavier effort was impressive. XU shot 49 FTs to GU's 14. The Muskies won the board battle 35-21. The Hoyas managed just one offensive rebound and zero second chance points. Turnovers were a manageable 10. The offense ran more smoothly with very few charges unlike the Creighton game and at Butler. 16 assists on 22 field goals is a good number. Xavier played a simple hustling driving game avoiding quick trigger threes for the most part. 6 for 15 from three point range is usually a winning statistic for the Muskies when they get to the line and make 70% plus of their FTs. Replicating those numbers(rebounding,free throw shooting,low turnovers and efficient long range shooting) gives XU a decent chance of knocking off the Bearcats Thursday night(7PM-ESPN2) in Clifton.
MUSKIES WILL BE EVERYBODY'S UNDERDOG!!!
Ken Pomeroy picks UC 69-64 and gives XU only a 30% chance of winning. The NCAA RPIs stack Xavier at 18 and UC at 19. The AP Top 25 and the Coaches' Poll list Cincinnati at 19th in the country. Xavier holds in there at 24th(AP) and 22nd(Coaches). Last December at Cintas the Muskies were the clear favorite. They won wire-to-wire and coasted to a 65-55 victory.It's a toss-up this season IMHO.
Two years ago on UC's home court XU maybe bottled a little Dee Davis lightening and won 59-57 coming back twice in the final minute to win it. This year X can logically re-assume that comfortable customary underdog label. They're on the road. UC's won 10 straight overall. The Bearcats are 11-0 on the home court. All the expectations are on UC and maybe rightly so??
Chris Mack and crew will go into siege mentality.It's David against Goliath!! Men against the boys!! Whatever it takes to motivate the Muskie troops and craft that winning form. I'll have much more detail on the Shootout Wednesday here.