MUSKIES HOLD ON AT SETON HALL!! WIN 70-69 FOR 3 STRAIGHT
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier did a ton of things well in building a 16 point lead(68-52) at Seton Hall with just 6:23 remaining in regulation time. Seton Hall slapped on the press. XU might have taken a breath. Certainly, fatigue could have been a factor with only 48 minutes of PT from the bench. And give SHU credit! They've rallied late several times this season to win. In the opening BIG EAST game, they trailed hated NYC rival St Johns by 12 with just 5 to play and the Hall won 76-74 on a buzzer three pointer by guard sub Shavar Reynolds. At Cintas, X led for over 30 minutes and by 10 points w/ 12 to play and SHU leaned on star sniper Myles Powell and the press to win 80-70. Not Wednesday night at the Rock in Newark! X never gave up the lead. The Muskies wobbled, but did not fold winning 70-69 for a 3rd straight victory.
The overall record pushes above .500 at 14-13. 6-8 in the BIG EAST places Xavier in a 6th place tie with Butler-just a half game back of Georgetown(6-7) and 1 GB out of 3rd place St Johns(7-7) and Seton Hall(7-7).
The mad scramble continues for probable BIG EAST NCAA bids #3 and #4 behind TOP Dogs Marquette(now 1st) and Villanova(2nd-a half game back).
And guess who's coming to Bruch this Sunday at Cintas?? The Villanova Wildcats-defending NCAA Champs(1:30 TIP-CBS Network). Maybe Jim Nance should bail on his Tiger Woods golfing saga and start his Road to the Final 4 early??
3 wins in a row does not mean celebration and euphoria. It does mean progress and foster promise both short and long term. Terrific hard working attention to detail defense is the bed rock of this turn around. It's been a work in progress for months.
Some results are showing up. More good work is required to maximize the upside. 4 regular season games remain(Villanova-home Sunday-at St Johns next Thursday 2-28-at Butler Tuesday 3-5 and St Johns-home Saturday 3-9). All 4 are probably NCAA NET Quad 1 wins if you win them?
WHY XAVIER WON!
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard started 7 footer Romero Gill. Gill had frustrated Tyrique Jones with his length and shot blocking at Cintas. Tyrique flipped the script and destroyed SHU inside(18 points-15 rebounds). When Jones started drawing double teams, Zach Hankins gave the Pirates a different look down low(10 points-4 boards).
#13 on #13 was the vital match-up. Naji Marshall was brilliant again offensively(28 points-5 made threes-6 rebounds-5 assists in 39 plus minutes). Give our #13 credit(87 points-last 4 games). His defense has been even more important than his offense.
Marshall handcuffed PC star Alpha Diallo Saturday(7 points on 2-10 FGs). He face guarded and fought through a million ball screens chasing SHU's #13 all over the Rock. Powell scored 17-just 14 vs Naji on 6-16 shooting w/only 2 made threes. Marshall can guard 6-7 guys and 6-2 guys. He's an equal opportunity lock down defender. So Marshall is +14 on his man and the Muskies win by one point.
X won the overall rebound battle 41-35. Xavier's strong inside game forced Gill to the bench and placed Michael Nzei, BIG Mamu and Myles Cale in early foul trouble. X pinged the ball around quickly and found open shooters(18 assists on 27 FGs). They made more threes than Seton Hall(7 to 6) with more open looks.
The Muskie bench guys helped out. Elias Harden played almost 20 minutes-scored the winning FG on a press break lay-up-drew fouls-held onto the ball and played strong defense. Kyle Castlin rooted out several ratty loose ball rebounds at crucial times. Kyle played 23 minutes and was a +14(best on the team) in a one point win. He does not make mistakes on defense.
Ryan Welage drilled a nice three vs zone defense. Villanova is playing way more zone this season. Ryan could get numerous open chances on Sunday.
THE FINAL MINUTES:
Xavier scored just 2 points over the last 6:23(Harden's lay-up), but they survived and never gave up the lead. Two FT front ends were missed and X weathered that. Paul Scruggs struggled to score, but made two vital hustle plays on 50-50 balls to salvage XU possessions.
The final 19 seconds were tension packed. SHU rebounded a missed XU FT. Willard called a time-out with 14 ticks left to set-up a play. That gave Travis Steele a chance to organize his defense. Marshall took Powell out of the equation. Willard had watched Naji tie Powell up all game without fouling.
The play went to St Johns game hero Shavar Reynolds. His wing three wasn't wide open. He missed and Cale rebounded stepping on the baseline. Ball game over! Great defense! No shot by the killer Powell!! Let the former walk on take the long look and do not foul him! Message received!! Muskies win 70-69!
Bring on Villanova in front of maybe a record SRO throng at Cintas Sunday and a National Audience on CBS. We'll have a Villanova Scouting Report up here late Friday.
Brad Redford and I will have a PODCAST posted on bedfrnt.com later today. Brad and I host Pre and Postgame events at Cintas Sunday around the Villanova game. The Pregame is at Duff's starting at about 12:45 and the Postgame is at Traditions 5 minutes after game's end.