MUSKIES TEAM 96 EXECUTES HOUDINI ACT vs GEORGETOWN!! SCOUTING BUTLER!
By Andy Mac Williams, 2/5/2018

Saturday's 96-91 Xavier OT win over Georgetown at Cintas proven entertaining to the max. It was the ultimate exercise in basket trading with 20 ties and 21 lead changes. Each team led briefly by 5 points(basically a one possession game for 45 minutes). Chris Mack labeled the game "exhausting". Luckily for XU they were playing at home(15-0 now at Cintas) with a deeper more experienced team and they thrived in late game situations. G-town played with extra speed and urgency. They still have an NIT shot at 13-9 despite their 3-8 BIG EAST record. The Hoyas pounded the Muskies early on the offensive glass. Their two quality BIGS Govan and Derrickson combined for 42 points and 24 rebounds. Their two impressive Frosh Pickett and Blair scored 40 with 8 made three pointers. X won with late half and late game execution. The Muskies chased G-town throughout the first half. With 2.9 seconds left before the break XU trailed 44-43 inbounding the ball under the Hoya basket. Everybody knew X would call a play for Trevon Bluiett. The Muskies ran #5 off a triple screen and he buried a dead corner "3" for a 46-44 Xavier halftime lead.

THE HOUDINI ACT:

Fast forward to the end of regulation!! X trailed G-town by 4(86-82) with 38 seconds left after a bogus foul call against Kaiser Gates and two made Hoya free throws. The prevailing coaching logic would be to attack the rim and score two quickly-then slap on the press-get a steal or foul and extend the game. Chris Mack thought outside the box. His team took 12 seconds to run a play for a Trevon Bluiett three point try. They'd practiced it all year. This was the time to use it. Bluiett cut off a double screen to the right wing and drilled the catch and shoot shot and as a bonus he was fouled and made the FT to tie at 86.

Four point plays are rare unless you're Marquette flopper Andrew Rowsey and they're almost non-existent in late game situations. Bluiett is an unusual talent though. A rhythm wing three is like a lay-up to him. Georgetown knew that and guarded hard and made contact.

The Hoyas still held the trump card. They had the ball in a tie game with 19 ticks left. Mack called for a 2-3 trapping zone. He went with a small lie-up including both lead guards Quentin Gooden and Paul Scruggs plus versatile defender Naji Marshall. XU played like their hair was on fire without fouling. Georgetown fired up an air ball. Xavier forced the overtime.

OVERTIME EXECUTION:

G-town seemed fatigued and frustrated as the extra session began. 6-10 horse Jesse Govan fouled out early. XU grabbed the upper hand and pounded the ball inside. Tyrique Jones made four straight FTs. Overall Xavier converted 10 of 10 from the foul line in the overtime. The Muskies led 94-91 with 26 seconds left. G-town faced that trapping Xavier zone again-put up a bad three pointer and Bluiett canned two FTs to ice the 96-91 win. XU lost the rebounding numbers. GT did better in second chance points and fast break scoring.

The Muskies won this one with late game execution-depth-experience and dead eye FT shooting(31 of 41). Tyrique Jones played a huge 20 minutes(15 points-6 rebounds-9 made FTs). He fouled Govan out and banged willingly with the Hoya BIGs(ala Florida State and Arizona in last year's NCAA Tournament). His muscle and inside grit plays well against anybody, but Tyrique will be vital Tuesday against Butler Senior Tyler Wideman and his match-up next week at Cintas against Angel Delgado(Seton Hall) will be pivotal. Kaiser Gates struggled to score against the Hoyas, but he snared 10 rebounds and dished 4 assists. Obviously, Bluiett was vituoso(31 points). "Q" and Scruggs continue to play well at both ends and play more together.

XAVIER BY THE NUMBERS:

The Muskies flesh out their record to 21-3 with an active 6 game winning streak. XU is now 15-0 at Cintas. At 9-2 in the BIG EAST,Xavier sits a half game back of #1 rated Villanova(9-1). VU hosts St Johns Wednesday night in Philadelphia. The Johnnies could??? be dangerous. They upset #4 Duke Saturday at Madison Square Garden 81-77. SJU gave Villanova a strong challenge at MSG two weeks ago losing 78-71. Shamrie Ponds poured in 37 vs Nova. He scored 33 against Duke and had 31 against Xavier last Tuesday in NYC. XU inches up to #5 in the new AP and Coaches' Top 25s. Xavier holds at #3 in the NCAA RPI behind Virginia and Villanova.

SCOUTING BUTLER:

The Muskies make their annual pilgrimage to Indianapolis Tuesday to play the Bulldogs at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse (6:30PM-EST-FS1). BU is on a hot streak with four straight wins and they've shored up their defense(allowing only 60PPG over those 4 victories). The competition has not been exactly killer lately(two wins over DePaul and one each against St Johns and Marquette), but a twenty point win in Milwaukee certainly gets by attention. Butler has been blowing teams out(average halftime lead 17 points) and the defense has been stingy(23 points allowed on average before halftime).

New coach LaVall Jordan got his point across defensively with his team at Wisconsin-Milwaukee late last season. They won three games in the Horizon League Tournament before losing in the Championship Game to NKU 59-53.History seems to be repeating itself. BU is rebounding better-forcing turnovers-guarding the three point line and using more bench players.

GAME #1 Xavier 86 Butler 79 at Cintas:The Muskies led almost all the way at home. X won the board battles and drilled the FTs. Five Muskies scored in double figures(Bluiett 21-Macura 20). Butler's BIG TWO Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin totaled 53 points, but needed 50 shots to get there. Xavier used a bunch of 1-3-1 zone to slow the pace. XU depth was crucial. Naji Marshall and Sean O'Mara played well as subs. THE REMATCH

TUESDAY IN INDY:

Butler is 12-1 at Hinkle with a win(101-93) over Villanova. The Bulldogs shot an unreal 15-22 from three that night. BU's lone home loss is to Seton Hall(90-87). Kelan Martin is a tough defensive match-up for anybody at PF(22PPG) with his size(6-7) and flexible shooting range. Kamar Baldwin is an advanced Sophomore(16PPG-3 assists-2 steals-5 plus rebounds). Mack says "he pecks at the ball constantly" on defense and triggers their running game. Butler is getting better play at PG from rangy Frosh Aaron Thompson. GW transfer Paul Jorgensen dropped 23 on Villanova in that upset Butler win. If he is scoring along with Martin and Baldwin it could be a long night for XU.

Bulky BIG Tyler Wideman is a rock inside. He's scoring more around the rim now. The bench is improving. Moeller HS product Nate Fowler provides quality inside play. Sean McDermott is a sweet shooting wing. Henry Baddley's minutes are on the rise.

XU is a slight underdog per Vegas and Ken Pomeroy's computer. Butler is improving defensively. The bench is more of a factor. but they still depend on Martin and Baldwin to drop big numbers against really good teams and Xavier qualifies as "really good". The Hinkle crowd hates J. P. Macura dating back to a thunder tomahawk dunk two years ago that put an exclamation point on a blow-out 74-57 Xavier victory. Expect J.P. to be revved by Hinkle's nasty reception.

Xavier got very little production from Paul Scruggs and Kerem Kanter in the Cintas win over BU. XU is better than they were in early January. The Muskies defense has improved despite yielding 91 points to Georgetown. It should be close. Butler is 17-7 overall with a climbing RPI. They're 7-4 in the BIG EAST-tied for third with Creighton-a half game ahead of Seton Hall and Providence(both 6-4) and hoping to pad their NCAA resume.

XU needs a quality road win with another tough one ahead Saturday afternoon in Omaha against Creighton. Xavier 82 Butler 78 in Trevon Bluiett's final game near home in Indianapolis (until he plays his first NBA game either for or against the Pacers).




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