MUSKIES HANDLE ADVERSITY!! BURY OHIO U LATE 82-61!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier won its fourth straight game improving to 6-3 besting Ohio U(MAC) 82-61 at Cintas Wednesday night, but it was not routine. PG Quentin Goodin tried to play in the midday shoot around, but was sent home with illness. "Q" started coming down with something last Saturday thus his struggling performance vs Oakland. His status for this Saturday's Crosstown Shootout at UC(2PM-ESPN2) is unknown?? BIG Zach Hankins felt ill also and played just 11 minutes behind Tyrique Jones. Jones was mowed over late vs OU drawing a charge in the lane. He hit his head and is in concussion protocol with his status for the Shootout in question. Not an ideal scenario for Xavier-playing their arch rival in a hostile building potentially without the starting PG and the best inside player.
Both Quentin and Tyrique played their first prime time road minutes vs UC two years ago at 5th-3rd Arena and earned their spurs with strong efforts in a less than stellar Muskie 86-78 loss to the Bearcats. "Q" went on the run the point in the NCAA Elite 8 run replacing injured Edmund Sumner. Tyrique moved into the starting line-up too and helped mightily in March NCAA wins over Maryland, FSU and Arizona.
It's also XU's first true road game although their 3 exposures in Maui were road equivalents against Auburn, San Diego State and Illinois plus the Wisconsin game was a blockbuster learning opportunity.
UC obviously presents an extreme challenge whether the Muskies would meet them at Cintas or on a neutral court or at the Friar's Club. The Bearcats are 8-1 with an 8 game win streak. They feature Mick Cronin's stingy defense-gang rebounding-full court pressure and a human bulldozer named Jarron Cumberland.
BIG ASSIGNMENT for Xavier with Quentin and Zach healthy and Tyrique available. If anybody's' out, it's a problem. Coach Steele espouses the next man up mantra. X is breaking every huddle these days chanting "JUST US". That's what it boils down to basically in Clifton Saturday!! The Muskies plus a couple hundred fans stuck up in a corner against the world.
Las Vegas, the BPI, KenPom, Sagarin, the local bookies, the media guys all are picking UC. Who knows? Andy Mac sticks with Xavier 71 UC 68. My track record over the last 35 years is way over .500 picking this game. XU is always my choice. More on the Shootout Friday
SPECIFICS ON OHIO U:
Xavier started well up 15-5 at the first media time-out. the opening line-up clicked well with Scruggs-Castlin-Marshall-Welage and Jones. The first wave of subs-not so good> X could not hiold separation on the Bobcats-turned it over a lot and led just 35-34 at the half. Q was missed. Hankins tried but was hampered.
I talked with assistant coach Jonas Hayes over the Cintas PA at the start of halftime. He preached patience and poise. Jonas communicated that well to the players during the break.
Ohio U hung in until midway through the second half.. At 54-52 XU with 11 minutes left. Coach Steele went 2-3 zone then mixed defenses and Xavier closed with a dominating 28-9 run to win 82-61. Paul Scuggs was productive efficient rock all night despite foul trouble(21 points-8 assists-5 rebounds-4 steals). Kyle Castlin(10 points-5 boards) provided the glue and leadership needed.
Naji Marshall dominated the ball down the stretch(17 points-7 rebounds-4 assists). Tyrique scored 15 inside and was credited with just 4 boards. It seemed like he had 10 plus the way he ruled in the paint?? Next man up worked.
XU closed the game and adjusted well after a rocky first half. Keonte Kennedy ate up 24 minutes off the bench and helped out with 4 points and 5 rebounds. Xavier's defense is improving with 55-63 and 61 points allowed the last three games.
UC on the road is a BIG step up, but the Muskies can fall back on their good SOS experiences against #12 Wisconsin and #8 Auburn. No matter who is healthy Xavier will play hard and with resilience. More Shootout details Friday here.