MUSKIES MELT DOWN LATE!! PIRATES' POWELL WIELDS THE DAGGER!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier did a bunch of things well Wednesday night against Seton Hall at Cintas despite the 80-70 loss to the Pirates(their 7th straight win). X played maybe its best offense of the season in the first half crafting a 42-38 lead at the break-making the extra pass-pounding the ball inside to BIG Zach Hankins(18 points on 9 of 11 shooting) employing a devastating pick and roll game-turning the ball over just 4 times against morphing SHU defenses-winning the rebounding and free throw numbers. The Muskies had the Pirates on the ropes with 2:21 to go until the halftime break(up 9 at 40-31). Then Seton Hall star Myles Powell emerged for the first time. X went zone defense. Powell moved to point guard and engineered a closing 7-2 Seton Hall run to keep SHU in contact.
Xavier struggled all night to get and hold separation. Powell kept bringing SHU back and reeling XU in. Xavier did a decent job covering him before halftime, but he still scored 12 making all five of his shots. The Seton Hall comeback seeds were sown in that first half though. Xavier struggled from three point range(1-7) while SHU knocked down 5 threes.
The XU bench contributed very little. Tyrique Jones got into almost immediate foul trouble. Keonte Kennedy barely played and Seton Hall stalked Ryan Welage well around the 3 point arc.
Bottom line!! Xavier shoulda, woulda, coulda had a double digit cushion after 20 minutes. They won every battle except long range shooting. Powell did just enough to keep the Hall within hailing distance.
SECOND HALF MELTDOWN:
Both teams struggled to score out of halftime. Xavier seemingly took steps to salt things away with an 8 point run(Paul Scruggs-a post-up 2 and back-to-back 3s from Ryan Welage and Scruggs) 56-46 Muskies(double digit separation for the first time) with 12:28 left. Time-out Seton Hall. XU relaxed? Fatigue set in(limited bench contributions)?
Myles Powell took over(no doubt about that).. Xavier committed 5 turnovers in the next 9 possessions. The Muskie lead shrunk to 58-57 and it was ball game on! Momentum to SHU! Give Xavier credit! Scruggs tied it at 65 with a lefty hook and tied at again at 68 by matching a Myles Powell 3.
Powell then took over. He drove and dished and drained FTs and brought the win home. Powell finished with 25 points-8 assists and 6 rebounds. Nothing new for #13. He killed Kentucky at Madison Square Garden and torpedoed Rutgers in the Battle of New Jersey and dissected Maryland at College Park.
The Xavier defense wasn't that bad. Powell is just such a killer up there with Shamorie Ponds(St Johns) and Markus Howard(Marquette).
Scruggs(22 points-4 rebounds-3 assists-no turnovers) is an excellent post-up guard with a deadly 3 point stroke(21-46 45%). Enemy guards give him room to toe the 3 point arc because they know he'll make them look sick on drives. Keep Paul out of foul trouble and he's All BIG EAST ready.
Hankins was a force before halftime(18 points). Give SHU coach Kevin Willard credit for adjusting defensively at halftime. Too bad Zach doesn't take the FT Line jumper.
X needs more bench help. The guards looked tired in the second half. Gooden and Scruggs are strong, but they need more help. Kyle Castlin really struggled(just 8 minutes). Two years ago grad transfer Malcolm Bernard hit the wall early in BIG EAST play then adapted and became a force. I expect Castlin to do the same.
Scruggs played 39 minutes and Q played all 40. X needs more from Kennedy and something from Elias Harden. Lack of depth is a function of the coaching change.
The cavalry is coming over the hill(5 dynamic 2019 recruits signed and maybe two more roster additions with grad transfers and/ or late 2019 April signees), but TEAM 97 has the tools to win now. More zone helps, but Myles Powell was just crafty enough to solve the zone looks some.
This group of coaches is verrrry resourceful and very positive. They are working on it. Tyrique got a horrible whistle on his first foul. The SHU player clearly lost control of the ball before any slight contact. No call-SHU turnover-Xavier ball-Zebra anticipated contact!!
Granted-Hankins' first half success limited Tyrique's role. but he was not himself in the second half. SHU 7 footer Romero blocked his shot cleanly when Jones went up with one hand. I've never seen that happen to Tyrique. He always runs through contact and scores or draws FTs.
The Seton Hall game was extremely winnable. Xavier at 10-5 and 2-0 in the BIG EAST has everybody labelling the Muskies as a surprise BIG EAST force. An 80-70 loss at Cintas looks bad, but that was no 10 point game.
Marquette in Milwaukee could be a bridge too far right now on Sunday(Noon Tip-Fox 19). The Golden Eagles are smarting after that 89-69 loss at St Johns. They are 10-0 at brand new Fiser Forum averaging 90PPG at home. MU is deep and frisky. Are they a Top 25 team(#14 in the NCAA NET??).
AROUND THE BIG EAST:
Seton Hall is alone on top at 2-0. Georgetown upset Butler Wednesday at Hinkle 84-76. William&Mary grad transfer Greg Malinowski poured in 26 for the Hoyas including 6 of 7 threes starting for injured frosh Matt McClung.
DePaul led by 14 at Villanova, but VU vets Paschall and Booth led a late Wildcat rally in VU's 73-68 win. Road teams are doing well early(Creighton wins at PC-G-town wins at Butler-Seton Hall wins at Xavier-XU wins at DePaul).
This will be a crazy BIG EAST race. Somebody wins it at 13-5 or maybe there's a tie at 12-6. We need 5 NCAA bids. Power ratings look more like 4 BIG EAST teams right now, but we have over two months to Selection Sunday.