Xavier Fends Off Scrappy George Washington Colonials
Four teams travelled out to Sin City for the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. Xavier and George Washington were the marquee teams to kick off the tournament with an afternoon bout on Thanksgiving Day. Xavier came out on top with a seemingly dominant 83-64 win. However, the 19 point margin and Trevon Bluiett's game leading 20 points are not indicative of a hard fought, scrappy game that gives Xavier fans a good barometer as to what this team is made of 5 games into the season.
The atmosphere was "an awkward" one as described by Xavier Head Coach Chris Mack. Two east coast teams playing on the opposite side of the country on Thanksgiving evening does not breed high attendance or an electric stadium. The lack of energy from the venue seemed to spill onto the court as Xavier's 7-0 lead to start the game was quieted within minutes and a back and forth bout ensued early.
Sophomore point guard Quentin Goodin played his best half of basketball with 8 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals in the first 20 minutes. This, coupled with Blueitt's 12 and Freshman guard Paul Scrugg's 7 off the bench, kept Xavier ahead as JP Macura and Tyrique Jones struggled to find their rhythm in the first. The first half was capped off with a deep NBA range 3-ball from Blueitt and an efficient penetration assist by Goodin to Sean O'Mara to beat the buzzer and give Xavier the 43-36 advantage in the locker room.
The second half saw Xavier play a relatively similar half to the first. Turnovers were an issue but Jones and Macura both found their touch and got involved early. Sean O'Mara found the bottom of the basket with two dunks on a beautiful touch pass from Macura and a dime outlet pass from Bluiett on back to back plays which saw Xavier stretch the lead to 14 with 12 minutes remaining in the half. The Colonials refused to go away as freshman guard Terry Nolan and senior wing Yuta Watanabe accrued a majority of their 18 and 16 points in the back part of the second half. With under nine minutes left, the margin was cut to 6 at 62-56. From there, it was all Muskies. Bluiett continued his All-American ways, Tyrique Jones found space on a couple of dunks, and freshman forward Naji Marshall got a few buckets in as Xavier ran away with a 19 point W.
This was an excellent indicator of what this team has the capability of being. Trevon Bluiett indicated in a post game interview that this team will "fight for a full 40 minutes" and that he will "play with no regrets" since almost tasting the Final Four. This mentality should scare the Big East and all of America as this team is focused and hungry. This hunger will be tested against either Kansas State or Arizona State tomorrow at 5:30 PM (ET) in the Final of the tournament as Xavier aims to bring home its' first of many trophies on this season.