Muskies Road Woes Continue!! Second Half Meltdown in Clifton!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 1/27/2017

We seem to repeat this ad nauseum!! Xavier's away schedule has been brutal,but so is the record at 1-5. XU just can't get any defensive stops after halftime. When they bottle up the dribble drive,they foul and send the bad guys to the FT Line. The Muskies have given up an average of 47.6PPG in the road defeats at Baylor,at Colorado,at Villanova,at Butler and at Cincinnati. In the NBA(48 minute game-24 second shot clock-the game now revolving around the three pointer) 47.6PPG allowed might get you some wins,but in D-1 NCAA basketball it's close to certain death. UC compounded things by controlling the paint on both ends of the floor in their 86-78 Crosstown Shootout win Thursday night. X was outrebounded 42-33(They're usually plus 7 on the glass). Cincy piled up 19 offensive boards,punked Xavier in the paint 34 points to 12 and demolished the Muskies in second chance scoring 30 points to 4.

The Bearcats played like a vintage Bob Huggins team from the 1990's. The first shot just initiated the offense.Then the volleyball game began until they rammed it in the hole or got fouled. The comparative numbers are depressing. UC shot 22-37 from 2 point range(60%) while XU went the other direction(7-28 25%). Xavier led by 8 at the half(44-36) courtesy of Trevon Bluiett's perfectly productive 20 minutes(8-8 FG,6-6 from three,4-4 FTs for 26 points).

Bluiett added 14 more to total 40-the most scored by a Muskie since David West poured in 47 vs Dayton in 2003. Bluiett's 40 points was the most by an XU player in the Shootout since Hall of Famer Steve Thomas exploded for 48 against the Bearcats at Cincinnati Gardens in March of 1964-well before the three point FG. XU lost that night 94-92.

Great shooting(Xavier made 15 of 28 threes) makes up for a litany of other sins on many evenings,but Cincy's inside control was just too much. The atmosphere was electric. The game was riveting.

The result(from my Muskie perspective) was frustrating and head scratching. Are the Xavier post guys too small or too soft or too slow? Rim chances were numerous as they were in the final minute of that tight loss to Creighton. Where was the finish?? Why didn't BIGS Gaston and O'Mara and Gates shoot more FTs? How did UC block 9 shots?

SHOOTOUT SILVER LININGS:

Frosh BIG Tyrique Jones banged like a warrior down low(6 points-5 rebounds in 12 muscular minutes) and he got his pound of flesh with 5 hard fouls. I might start him Sunday at St Johns(6PM-Madison Square Garden-FS1) if his sore knee allows. Frosh PG Quentin Goodin played 15 solid minutes(7 points-6 assists-1 turnover).

Edmond Sumner ran into early foul trouble and "Q" just stepped into a super charged situation like a veteran and ran the show against a very experienced stingy defensive team. If Edmond were healthy, I bet we would see a lot more of Sumner and Goodin together on the floor with Ed playing off the ball.The 1-3-1 zone coaxed UC into several quick bad shots. The Bearcats dug out the long rebounds though and won the 50-50 ball scraps and recycled the shot clock and then scored.

SCOUTING ST JOHNS-SUNDAY IN NYC:

It's Game Two against the Red Storm. Xavier won at Cintas 97-82 on January 7th. SJU started well leading 18-9.RS Frosh Guard Marcus Lovett bombed in 11 points. XU got into immediate foul trouble. Coach Mack went to a smaller line-up pairing Sumner and Goodin in the back court with Bluiett,Bernard and Gates. Off the Muskies tore on a 36 to 9 run. They led 54-39 at the half and used a heavy dose of 1-3-1 zone to slow the fast paced Johnnies and salt away a 97-82 victory.Xavier improved to 3-0 in the Big East. Since then,XU has lost 4 of 5 including the non-conference Shootout against UC. The Muskies now are 4-3(Big East)5th a half game behind Creighton(5-3) and Marquette(5-3).CU hosts DePaul Saturday.

MU hosts Providence. St Johns sits 4-5 in the BE(6th). They outran Providence in Rhode Island Wednesday 91-86 for an impressive road win against improving PC. SJU has two wins over DePaul. Their best effort was a Big East opening night 76-73 win over Butler on campus in Queens at Carnesseca Arena.

The Muskies and Red Storm play Sunday downtown at MSG. SJU is 0-2 in the World's Greatest Arena so far with lopsided losses to Penn State and Villanova. The two young 6 foot Guards Lovett and Shamorie Ponds power St Johns quick trigger fast paced offense. Both average 17PPG-shoot the three-attack the rim and make FTs. They seem fearless. They combined for 53 points against XU at Cintas. Small Forward Bashir Ahmed is the third scoring option(12.7PPG)(6-7,210).

In Game 1 vs Xavier 6-5 Soph Malik Ellison got into foul trouble and played just 19 minutes. He's their best all court player and defender so they need more from him in Game 2. Other BIGS Tariq Owens(Tennessee transfer),Kassoum Yakwe and Darien Williams must impact the game more at MSG. Italian import Federico Mussini has had hot shooting games at the Garden coming off the bench.

Does Xavier have gas in the tank after the loss to UC? Can the Muskie BIGS contribute inside offense against the lighter more nimble Red Storm BIGS? Getting into a basket trading game with St Johns is a dangerous thing to do. They play chuck and duck for a living. This is a character tester for Xavier with a quick turn around off a potentially demoralizing defeat. Who's going to step up? Where will the stops come from defensively? Can XU start decently then fall back on the 1-3-1 zone to put St Johns to bed?

Crowd size and intensity will be something to watch. They put in 8,000 for Penn State in December. Villanova brought a ton of fans from Philadelphia and the MSG crowd was over 17,000. MSG mystique may inspire the Muskies(Broadway,Times Square,the Big Apple). It's sure a lot better than playing St Johns in front of 5,000 at their dinky gym out near La Guardia Airport.




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