MUSKIES DAMN THE TORPEDOES!! RALLY FROM 17 DOWN TO CATCH GEORGETOWN 81-75!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 1/10/2019

The pregame Xavier-Georgetown news was not encouraging. The Muskies were already reeling some from Sunday's 70-52 bummer of a loss at Marquette. Word spread before tip that XU PG Quentin Gooden would be a scratch because of a sore knee. That partially explained "Qs" tough day in Milwaukee. He wanted to play badly vs G-town, but the decision was to rest him in favor of his long term health and availability. Next man up was the Muskies' mantra.

The coaches have been toying all season with playing the two BIGS Tyrique Jones and Zach Hankins together. The players have lobbied for the Twin Towers approach. Coaches were worried about foul trouble and lack of post depth. Tyrique's recent head injuries have postponed the BIG line-up. Tyrique has missed 60% of practice reps since Ohio U back in December so his conditioning was a question mark.

Until Wednesday vs GU, Jones and Hankins had divided the 5 man minutes perfectly. With "Q" out and the Hoyas playing a giant long rebounding heavy line-up, the time seemed ripe for the burly boys to take the floor as a tandem. They started along with Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs and Kyle Castlin. Things went swimmingly up to the first media time-out. XU led 11-9 with 15:23 left.

All the Muskie damage was done inside-around the rim! Georgetown relied on the three early and made 6 in a row from outside. Greg Malinowski flipped in a well guarded 25 footer to make it 6 straight and I snapped my cheap bic pen unprofessionally.

The Muskies also were being punked on the glass by Jesse Govan(Best BIG IN BIG EAST-finished with 27 points on 11-17 shooting with 8 rebounds) and his freshman co conspirator 6-9 Josh Leblanc. Xavier seemed a step slow in close-outs and the bounces were not going their way.

GU just kept finding circus routes to score .And Jamarko Pickett decided to celebrate early. He stared down a Xavier defender after making a routine lay-up. Not cool!! The Hoyas pushed the lead to 39-22 at the final first half media time-out.

I was in transit from upstairs to court level for my halftime assistant coach interview when Travis Steele apparently "executed" a white dry erase board in the team huddle. I'm using Enquirer reporter Adam Baum's creative colorful terminology.

Travis definitely got their attention. X went zone out of the time-out. G-town settled for contested threes. The Muskies rebounded the snot out of the ball and attacked the rim almost recklessly. It was a thing of beauty. The crowd got rolling!! Cintas rocked and XU rolled to a 17-0 run spilling over into the second half. Tie game 39-39 and it was ball game on from there.

GU tried to regain control. Govan was almost unstoppable. Frosh PG James Akinjo had good spurts, but Xavier did not wilt. They rebounded well out of the zone with Tyrique, Zach and Naji triangulating around the paint. The Hoyas hoisted jumpers and returned to trend line from three(started 6 for 6-finished 4 for 21).

Steele loved his team's response to 17 down as he had with the Muskies 19-4 game winning close-out at DePaul. The BIG experiment worked well for sure. Both Tyrique and Zach scored double-doubles combining for 42 points and 20 rebounds. They ran the floor to help defuse the Hoyas fast break chances.

X won the paint war 48 points to 28. They won the rebound numbers 36-33 vs GU who is normally +6 on the glass. Attacking the rim led to a huge Muskie edge at the FT line(22-28 for X against 15-18 for GU). Georgetown usually wins at the FT line in a landslide-not at XU. XU could survive and win despite being outscored from three 10-3 because of the paint and FT performance.

Efficient offense is the goal and Xavier scored 1.25 points/possession. That is an elite number. Gonzaga leads the NCAA so far this season at 1.23. Can X repeat or come close against Butler at Cintas Sunday(Noon-CBS SN) and down the line next Friday at Villanova etc etc. Will the BIG Line-up work on the road in the BIG EAST or was it just a fit against Georgetown? We now know it can work!

OTHER NOTES:

Elias Harden played crucial minutes(24) and grabbed the opportunity confidently scoring 7 with no turnovers and disruptive defensive work. Harden showed his talent in Maui(9 points San Diego State-14 points Illinois).Now he's proven himself in the BIG EAST and at Cintas. Patience is a virtue. Elias has stayed focused in practice and he's enthusiastic on the bench during games. It was his time against GU.

The door is open to a regular rotation spot. Both Naji Marshall(13 points-5 rebounds-3 assists) and PG Paul Scruggs(10 points-5 rebounds-4 assists and just 1 turnover as prime ball handler) played all 40 minutes hard and productively. Naji took some of the pressure off Paul late as the main ball handler.

Xavier solved the turnover problem coughing it up just 4 times. The defensive numbers were skewed early by G-town's outside sniping and Govan's overall scoring magic. Still the Muskies slowed the Hoyas' potent fast break and held them well below their 83PPG average.

Great bounce back night at Cintas. 2-2 in the BIG EAST is good for a 4th place tie with St Johns. Villanova leads at 3-0, Seton Hall is 3-1, Marquette 2-1.

AROUND THE BIG EAST:

Marquette won a wild 106-104 overtime thriller against Creighton in Omaha. Markus Howard set a single game BE scoring record with 53 points(10-14 from three, 13-15 FTs).

MU trailed 85-80 with 8 seconds left in regulation. They had to go 94 feet. Sam Hauser missed a three, but Joseph Chartouny scored on a stick back with 1 plus seconds left. Creighton inbounded and threw the ball into the back court. It rolled out of bounds so Marquette got it back under their own basket. MU flipped a high in-bounds pass. San Hauser caught the ball-gathered himself and heaved up a contested three. Bang-in-tie game-miracle OT!! The clock might have started late?? Howard scored 16 in the OT for the 106-104 Marquette improbable victory.

Seton Hall won another close one edging Butler 76-75 in Newark. Myles Powell pushed SHU over the top with 31 points. BU struggled from three(5-20) but found a way to stay close. Kamar Baldwin dropped 23 for Butler. Emerging 6-11 RS Sophomore Joey Brunk had a career game inside(20 points-10 rebounds).

Butler is 10-6 overall and 1-2 in the BIG EAST. They lost their last non-conference games at Florida 77-43 so expect the uber scrappy bulldogs to bein a nasty mood Sunday at Cintas. BU is getting a boost from Duke transfer Jordan Tucker. He just became eligible after the first semester.




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