Muskies Struggle-Yet Survive in Orlando-Clip Mizzou 83-82 in Wild OT Game!!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 11/17/2016

It wasn't pretty, but it was quite gritty!! Xavier overcame early turnovers(9 in the first half)-nasty foul trouble(Tyrique Jones and Rashid Gaston fouled out-Trevon Bluiett played reduced minutes) and horrible shooting(2-22 from three-25-38 FTs) to hold off a plucky Missouri Tiger team(SEC) 83-82 in overtime in Round One of the Tire Pro Tourney on the Disney property in Orlando. XU advances to play Clemson(ACC) in the Winners Bracket Semi-Finals Friday afternoon (1:30 EST-ESPNU). Clemson cruised to a solid 95-78 win over Davidson(Atlantic 10) in the early game.

The Muskies trailed by 10(31-21) with just over four minutes remaining in an ugly first half. J.P. Macura was about the only bright spot(9 first half points plus his usual scrappy floor game). Xavier rallied before the break and trailed Mizzou by just 38-36.

XU gave effort-outrebounding UM by a decent margin,but shooting and ball handling proved problematic. It brought back bad memories of last season's first half against Alabama on the same Milkhouse floor in Orlando.

The second half proved a study in basket trading. Xavier couldn't manage any separation. The game was tied over 15 times. The Muskies carved out a 69-65 lead with 2:30 left and the Tigers bounced back. Bluiett scored on a drive from the top of the key-but Mizzou canned two FTs to force OT at 71-71.

The overtime provided wild momentum swings. Xavier built a 78-73 lead with Bluiett and Sean O'Mara accounting for all the points. Missouri PG Terrence Phillips(21 points-5 assists-7 rebounds) dragged his team back even. XU struggled with FTs and UM grabbed a late 82-80 lead. X tied it at 82 all. Mizzou got the ball with 17.8 ticks left and with a chance to win it.

Malcolm Bernard kept the slippery PG Phillips in front of him and blocked his perimeter shot. XU controlled!! J.P. Macura saved the day with a cerebral time-out call at 1.7 seconds left. Xavier inbounded just shy of mid-court. Macura relayed to Edmund Sumner streaking down the right sideline. Ed was cross body blocked by Phillips of Missouri. Foul with 0.3 seconds left. Game tied 82-82. Sumner who'd missed four FTs in a row down the stretch went to the foul line and bricked the first try(short off the front rim) but he drilled the second and Xavier salvaged a crazy victory.

Missouri is much improved after finishing in the SEC cellar the last two seasons. Coach Kim Anderson has a roster made up entirely of his own recruits. The Tigers enjoyed a big edge in three point shooting(8 makes outside the arc to 2 for the Muskies).Their Frosh from Cleveland Garfield Heights HS Frankie Hughes made 5 bombs and scored 24. Xavier clobbered Mizzou on the boards 52-38. Sean O'Mara finished strong in the OT(a career high 13 points-5 rebounds). Rashid Gaston posted a double-double off the bench(12 points-10 rebounds).

Bluiett was handcuffed by fouls,but managed to stay on the floor and scored 13 mostly late. Sumner had 19.but struggled at the FT line(5-12) until that final game winning shot.Macura dumped in 19 with 5 boards-5 assists and 2 steals. Xavier improves to 3-0. They've won 4 straight games at Disney over the last year(Alabama,USC and Dayton to win the Advocare Tourney last Thanksgiving plus Missouri this season).

It's XU's first overtime game in over a year. They had none last season.The most recent an OT win over Butler at MSG in the Big East Tourney Quarterfinals in March 2015.

QUICK CLEMSON SCOUT:

The Tigers are 2-0 with an opening night 74-64 home court win over Georgia at refurbished Littlejohn Colesium and Thursday's 95-78 pasting of three ball happy Davidson. XU did play Georgia in that closed scrimmage 3 weeks ago in Nashville and reportedly won comfortably for what that's worth?? Clemson looked athletic and aggressive against Davidson. They pressured the perimeter and forced Davidson into a ton of turnovers(16) way above their norm. Davidson launched 40 three pointers and made just 11. Clemson contested most shots and stymied Davidson's patented ball reversal game.

Davidson star Jack Gibbs(24PPG last season) wasn't 100%=just coming off a shoulder injury. Clemson is coached by former Wright State Raider head man Brad Brownell(7th season). He's under pressure to get to the NCAAs out of the loaded ACC.He may have the horses.

The Tiger's top player is All ACC Forward Jaron Blossomgame(6-7,220 SR) the second best returning ACC scorer behind only Grayson Allen of Duke. He's a potent all court player-very dynamic and this season with a better supporting cast.Blossomgame went through 7 NBA workouts and decided to come back to school. All five Clemson starters scored in double figures vs Davidson. 6-8 Junior Forward Donte Grantham is long and a strong wing 3 point sniper. Clemson has a legit Center 6-10 Sidy Djitte from Senagal.

The starting guards are 6-2 Senior Avry Holmes and 6-3 Junior Gabe DeVoe. Holmes is playing PG now with projected starter Shleton Mitchell injured. Another guard Ty Hudson has been suspended-did not play against Davidson but might be available against Xavier.

Clemson has a three man bench like Xavier featuring Robert Morris transfer Marquise Reed-a shooting guard and 7 footer Legend Roberton from England. Depth right now is a Clemson problem. They have improved scoring balance so not every possession runs through their star Blossomgame. XU's BIGS will have bodies to bang against.

The Muskies will have to take better care of the ball-make some threes and be much better from the FT line to beat Clemson and advance to Sunday's Championship Game. I liked XU's grit inside against Mizzou but Clemson is bigger and stronger.




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