REFLECTING ON MUSKIES' 63-58 OT ROCK FIGHT
By Andy Mac Williams, 11/13/2019

Travis Steele came up w/ the "Rock Fight" label for Tuesday's Xavier come-from-behind victory over Missouri(SEC) and he was right on. November basketball can be less than artful-even heavy handed. The stats would corroborate that. Mizzou shot 33% FG, 6-25 from "3" and turned the ball over 20 times. XU hit 32.8% FG, 3-21 from 3 and coughed up 16 turnovers. Plenty of blemishes both ways, but certainly a ton of effort. X continued their manic high ball pressure defense. M made just 4 field goals in the first 15 plus minutes and trailed by 15(27-12). The Muskies missed several wide open looks from "3" and had the Tigers teetering on extinction. Mizzou stayed alive w/ a late 9-1 run and trailed by just 7 at the half (28-21).

Xavier's Jason Carter drives the ball up the sideline against a Mizzou defender.[enlarge] Photo by Bob Stevens
Xavier's bench reacts in celebration after Naji Marshall hits the three to tie the game at 51 late in the second half.[enlarge] Photo by Bob Stevens
Travis Steele lamented not calling a time-out during the bad stretch to slow Mizzou's gathering mojo. It was ball game on-not ball game over and MU reeled XU in completely 7:30 into half#2 at 34-34. Missouri played more physically seemingly surviving Center Jerimiah Tillman's almost constant foul trouble. M carved out a +6 rebound advantage and held a 45-40 lead w/ 4:01 to go in regulation.

Last season X might have caved and capitulated. TEAM 98 dug in-w/ the Core 4 plus Jason Carter on the floor. They scrapped the errant 3 balls-regained their rebounding mojo and clawed right back into it. Paul Scruggs attacked the bucket. Jason Carter converted around the rim and at the FT line. Down 3 w/ 30 seconds left, Steele called a full court play he stole from Villanova that VU used to free Kris Jenkins for the winning "3" in the 2016 NCAA Title Game vs North Carolina. This time Naji Marshall drained a fall back 3 ball to tie at 51-51.

Mizzou had 20 seconds left to win it. Steele must have recalled Chris Mack's fouling strategy in the Muskies' huge 18 point come back vs ETSU in 2017. X flat-out executed-fouling twice w/ two fouls to give leaving MU 5.4 ticks to score and a baseline in bounds spot. The Muskies forced a bad shot. Scruggs snared the rebound and it was off to overtime!!

Xavier dominated the extra period. Tyrique Jones outworked Tillman and won the tip. Scruggs-Carter and Marshall powered the ball to the rim. The Muskies knocked down 8 of 10 FTs. Carter grabbed 3 rebounds. "Q" iced it w/ 3 of 4 from the line and X won 63-58.

MANY NOTES:

Jason Carter upped his minutes to 38 and felt like himself after overcoming ankle and back injuries. He posted a hard working double-double(12 points-11 rebounds). Paul Scruggs played a gritty 40 minutes after missing a week and the Siena game w/ a knee sprain. He practiced just once and put up 12 points and 5 boards). Naji was Naji (17 points-8 rebounds-3 assists and that game saving "3". Mizzou Coach Cuonzo Martin called Marshall "a special talent w/ a long NBA career ahead."

PG Gooden had a tough night overall w/ 6 turnovers, but he converted 2 steals into easy hoops and made those nail in the coffin FTs. Tyrique battled and hit the floor and worked and led despite a difficult shooting game(2-10 FG, 2-6 FTs).

The Muskie bench Freemantle-Bishop and Moore totaled just 40 minutes and helped in half #1, but the veterans brought this game home.

Kyky Tandy will supply PG relief and become the 9th rotational player when he gets healthy maybe for the Charleston tourney starting next Thursday 11-21(3 games in 4 days).

The win was a nice birthday gift for Coach Steele(38). Xavier shot FTs much better(20-27 74% 8-10 in OT). X was +8 points over Mizzou at the line almost cancelling their 9 point deficit from "3". X is 3-0. They lost Game#3 last November at Cintas to Wisconsin. The Muskies sit #21 in KenPom. The "W" over Missouri may be a Tier 1 NET victory.

We'll have scouting info on Friday's Cintas opponent Missouri State from the Missouri Valley Conference on twitter @mm_andymac and here at musketeermadness.com. Beware Valley teams!! Loyola wen to a Final 4 a couple of years ago and Evansville upset #1 Kentucky Tuesday at Rupp Arena.










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