Musketeers' Balanced Attack Leads to Third Straight Win
After the bounce back from a rough trip to Maui, Xavier looked to keep the ball rolling Saturday against a constant mid-major threat, the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. While Oakland is long past their Kay Felder years, forward Xavier Hill-Mais poured in 30 points for the Grizzlies which kept the game interesting. However, a balanced scoring attack including 14 from Naji Marshall and 25 from the bench helped the Musketeers secure a 10 point victory to defend the Cintas Center.
Hill-Mais came out hot, scoring 22 of his 30 in the first half and Oakland had instantly taken some of the life out of the sold out Cintas Center. However, Xavier settled in and tightened up defensively enough to have a 41-36 advantage at the half. The second half saw Xavier make it a little more difficult on the hot hand of Hill-Mais. However, G Braden Norris caught fire from 3-point range shooting a blistering 4-6 from downtown to bolster a comeback from the Grizzlies in the second half. With 13 minutes left, Xavier was clinging to a 53-50 advantage. Down the stretch, Paul Scruggs fouled out and timely buckets from Ryan Welich secured the victory.
Ultimately, the Muskies need to find a way to shore up these defensive issues moving forward. They are still struggling to find both an offensive and defensive identity which is glaring in how they play. Coach Travis Steele was quoted as saying "I don't think we saw any progress going from the Miami game to today. That's disappointing." This progress will be key as Xavier moves in to key bouts with Cincinnati and Missouri in the next several games leading into Big East play.
Fortunately, Xavier has another home game against the in-state Ohio University Bobcats on Wednesday, December 5 before entering the demanding gauntlet.