Xavier Secures Underdog Victory on Clutch Free Throws
The Big East leading Xavier Musketeers traveled to Omaha yesterday to face a Creighton Blue Jay team that had 0 home losses and something to prove. While the Blue Jays hit 11 3-pointers and played well enough to win, the Musketeers were able to emerge victorious on game winning FT's by Quentin Goodin with 0.3 seconds left to play. Marcus Foster paced the Blue Jays with 29 points but Foster's big night was overshadowed by the balanced attack of the Musketeers.
On a night where 3-pointers weren't falling at a high clip, the interior play of Xavier provided a significant lift. While Xavier shot 3-19 from deep, bigs Kerem Kanter and Sean O'Mara combined for 26 points on 65% shooting and assisted Xavier in having a 30 point advantage on points in the paint and a 13 rebound advantage over Creighton. This continues a strong interior attack despite the absence of the incumbent starter, Tyrique Jones, as of late.
Trevon Bluiett had a notably off night. He scored 6 points on 3-9 shooting including 0-4 from distance. However, the play of the rest of the backcourt helped overshadow the lack of production. JP Macura finished with 15 and Quentin Goodin finished with a career/team high 17 points, including the game sealing free throws.
Regarding the FT's, Goodin says "Everybody wants to be in that situation. On the road, down ... and your free throws are the game winners. I don't think it's any better than that." He backed that with his clutch play after Creighton guard Ronnie Harrell Jr. had hit 3 FT's of his own to put Creighton ahead 71-70 with 4.3 seconds remaining.
The balanced attack from the Musketeers earned them their 4th straight road win and 8th straight win overall. The streaking Muskies have now put themselves in the driver's seat for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament and further in control of the top of the Big East.
Xavier will welcome the Seton Hall Pirates to the Cintas Center on Wednesday and will be seeking to further solidify their half-game lead at the top of the Big East and continue their hot play as we get deeper into the season. Last time these teams squared off, Xavier returned home with a 73-64 victory.