MUSKIES NEGOTIATE PAST OAKLAND!! THIRD STRAIGHT WIN!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Saturday afternoon's 73-63 Xavier victory over Oakland University at Cintas Center was far from time capsule material, but it was another potential trap game avoided. The Golden Grizzlies from the Horizon League are certainly a work in progress, but they have some good parts(like Xavier Hill-Mais who scored 30 points against X and Frosh PG Braden Norris who finished with 17 points and 8 assists and Jaevin Cumberland who's a cousin of UC road grader Jarron whom the Muskies must deal with in the Crosstown Shootout this coming Saturday afternoon in Clifton(2PM Tip-TV ESPN2). Oakland's anchor is long time coach Greg Kampe.He has that rumpled Columbo look on the sideline without the trench coat and cigar, but Kampe can coach and his game plan kept OU within single digits most of the game.
Xavier started slowly(down 13-10 at the first TV time-out). Foul trouble forced Travis Steele to play some different line-ups. Soph Elias Harden was sick and unavailable to further scramble the substitution patterns. X decided to play behind 6-7 Hill-Mais in the first half and Oakland patiently fed him on the low block for 24 points of their 36 before the break. Tyrique Jones and Zach Hankins were both hamstrung with fouls. OU hit some threes.
When XU got running, they prospered and expanded the lead to double digits. Oakland made a late run though and gtrailed just 41-36 at the half. Kampe seldom plays zone. He made the decision to start the second half to zone up. It was his only chance to pill off the upset. X stagnated offensively against a morphing 1-3-1 and could not make a three pointer. Kampe took sniper Ryan Welage away until late in the game. The Muskies kept nursing the lead to 9. A couple made threes would have forced Kampe out of his zone, but XU missed and OU scored enough to stay within hailing distance until the final minutes.
Paul Scruggs fouled out courtesy of a strange borderline brutal referee whistle. He still stuffed the stat sheet(10 points-5 rebounds-4 assists-3 steals) and spearheaded a much more driven Xavier defensive effort after halftime when the zebras let him play. What is it with officials in some non-conference games?? They call knit picky stuff on bigger stronger more flamboyant dynamic players like Scruggs and Tyrique because little guys bounce off them(and flop a lot) and they show a zest for playing the game. Usually in the BIG EAST it's just play on-not a whistle in those incidental contact situations. X was easily 20 points better than Oakland.
Give Kampe credit for sticking with the zone and staying patient offensively. It was a good object lesson for Xavier re running zone offense. Credit Tyrique Jones for dominating the boards late(11 points-11 rebounds for a muscular double- double) Welage finally shredded the zone with a couple late threes(3-6 from long range for 11 points). With Scruggs fouled out, steady Kyle Castlin was the Muskie closer scoring 8 of his 10 points at winning time-anchoring the defense and generally playing the do everything Swiss Army Knife role.
Keep an eye on Oakland! They may be a major factor in the Horizon and they have games in the area at NKU and Wright State. Kampe might just fool the experts and make an NCAA run with this group?? They'll be on ESPN2 or U a few times on Friday nights playing on their art deco dark brown floor at the O-rena in Rchester, Michigan too.
BOTTOM LINE FOR THE OAKLAND GAME.
XU held them to a stingy 63 points and a decent 1.00 points/possession. The Muskies ruled in paint points(38-20) and rebounds(38-28) and second chance points(21-4) and X made FTs (19-23). 11 made threes and that stinking zone kept Oakland from being blown out. Xavier only turned it over 9 times and had 5 players in double figures. The Muskies are now 5-3 with losses to #8 Auburn(currently 6-1 with their lone loss to Duke) and #22 Wisconsin(currently 7-1 with a bullet after wins this week over NC State and #14 Iowa on the road).
The Ohio U Bobcats Wednesday night at Cintas(6:30PM-FS1). OU is 5-2 with a robust inside game. They are considered by some experts as the #2 team in the MAC East behind Top 25 Buffalo. This is the Bobcats first road game. They beat border rival Marshall Saturday at the Convo in Athens 101-84. We know from last season how potent that Marshall Thundering Herd offense can be.
It's Crosstown Shootout Week with Xavier playing the UC Bearcats Saturday December 8th at the remodeled 5th-3rd Arena in Clifton(2PM-ESPN2). Cincy is a huge favorite because of the home court. They are 7-1 with a 7 game win streak after winning 65-61 at UNLV Saturday. UC hosts NKU(8-1) Tuesday.
RIP DR.BILL DAILY
Bill died over the weekend after a long illness. He's a Xavier Hall of Famer and the chief architect and visionary for the Modern Era of Xavier Basketball. Bill halted a move to de-emphasize basketball in the late 1970's and led the charge in hiring Bob Staak and joining the MCC. He insisted on hiring Pete Gillen in 1985 when others wanted Tom Grugurich from UNLV. Without Bill Dailey's efforts chances are Xavier basketball isn't even a blip on the radar today-maybe D-3 or NAIA. Schmidt Fieldhouse is still the home court. There's no Cintas Center-no Ledgewood campus etc etc.