MUSKIES ACE THE OFFENSE!! FUMBLE THE DEFENSE!! BUT STLL BEAT EVANSVILLE!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier 91 EVANSVILLE 85 Saturday afternoon at Cintas. I gotta admit. I underestimated the Missouri Valley Purple Aces considering their ugly 99-60 loss at Illinois Thursday-the seemingly depleted state of their roster under new coach Walter Mc Carty and the quick less than 48 hour turn-around from the Illinois debacle until XU at Cintas. Give E-ville credit! They kept punching after trailing Xavier by 15 with 7:20 left in the first half.
The Aces played the new age drive and kick game almost to perfection making 17 of 33 three pointers(52%). Villanova burned Xavier for 16 made threes last February in a 95-79 Nova win at Cintas. Evansville broke that negative Muskie team record with the 17 makes. Mc Carty did an excellent job of helping his team put Illinois in the rearview mirror.
Kudos also to local Lakota East HS product Evan Kuhlman. The 6-7 Evansville sophomore started and battled against bigger Xavier BIGS and scored 12 points in 29 minutes before fouling out. The Aces hit a bunch of circus three pointers for sure, but they also got open shots way too easily. Travis Steele had to employ a high 2-3 zone to cool off the UE perimeter onslaught.
Steele was upset with both zone and packline defense. He thought his team lost focus after 3 or 4 passes off the ball. He called for more pride on defense after giving his players a reality check postgame feedback session in the dressing room. Travis also noted a obvious nasty patter.
X frittered away a late first half 18 point lead vs IUPUI and the 15 point bulge vs Evansville. Halfs are by definition 20 minutes long. The profusion of three point FG tries makes double digit leads into fool's gold frequently. Xavier's excessive fouling has put the bad guys at the FT line too much also.
And foul trouble has forced prime time players to the bench early and often. Improvement defensively-cutting down on fouling and foul trouble plus better Muskie FT shooting must all happen quickly to compete with teams like Wisconsin and Auburn-the next two entries on the Xavier schedule.
POSITIVES FROM EVANSVILLE:
XU did win the game and they scored 91 in front of an SRO crowd (10533) at Cintas. The style of play entertained!! Quentin Goodin returned to action after basically missing 4 weeks with the shoulder injury. Q played 15 productive minutes off the bench(14 points-3 assists-0 turnovers). He drained 3 of 5 three pointers and blocked a transition lay-up attempt very athletically. Goodin's long range stroke is now smooth and consistent. No accident here!! Just hard work like hundreds of shots put up every day.
Q was ejected early in the second half after bouncing the basketball off an Evansville defender. Might have had some connection with E-ville targeting that shoulder?? Quentin seldom loses his cool.
The Muskie BIGS had a field day. Tyrique Jones dunked his way to 19 points and owned the glass at both ends with 20 rebounds(most by a Muskie since David West snared 21 against GW way back in 2001. Tyrique also blocked 4 shots and shined on 50-50 ball effort plays. Fellow BIG Zach Hankins blossomed offensively(14 points in 11 minutes) with several alley-oop slams. Maybe we see Tyrique and Zach on the floor together against Wisconsin and/or Auburn?
PG Paul Scruggs came of age as a leader and lead guard with Goodin out and Naji Marshall in foul trouble. It was #1 against the world handling the ball down the stretch and Scruggs came up anti-Aces(24 points efficiently-5 assists-1 turnover-6 rebounds in 34 minutes). Scruggs had a brief but insightful quote regarding Goodin's return to the floor and their work as a guard tandem: "we've just scratched the surface."
BOTTOM LINE TWO GAMES INTO THE SCHEDULE: 2-0 is 2-0!!
The offense has impressed. TEAM 97 will score enough to win against almost anybody. A Q-Scruggs backcourt is hell on wheels and hard to guard. Naji Marshall when healthy and not in foul trouble is an All BIG EAST caliber dynamic rover small forward type. The two BIGS can score inside and rim protect and rebound. Depth is a work in progress. Defense has to get stickier fast or that zero in the loss column will quickly vanish.
Wisconsin plays Xavier Tuesday night at Cintas (6:30Tip-TV FS1) in Game One of the 8 game BIG EAST-Big Ten Gavitt Series.The Muskies beat the Badgers last November in Madison 80-70. Wisc wants revenge. They are 1-0 after a home court 85-63 massacre of Coppin State last Tuesday at their Kohl Center. KenPom picks The Badgers 74-72 and gives XU just a 42% chance of winning. Last year KP had Wisconsin winning 74-71??
Thursday Xavier jets off to Maui (5 hour time change). Monday November 19th they play Auburn at 2:30 EST on ESPN2 in Game 1 of the Maui Invitational. Much more on Xavier-Wisconsin here on Monday.