MUSKIES SQUEEZE BY CREIGHTON 63-61!! NCAA CHANCE IS STILL THERE!!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier-Creighton in this afternoon's second BIG EAST Tourney Quarterfinal at MSG was an NCAA elimination game IMHO and the Muskies are still standing after winning a war 63-61. XU is now 18-14 overall w/ 7 wins in their last 8 games-4 NCAA NET Quad 1 wins- an NET of their own moving up into the mid 60s and a golden chance to pad their NCAA resume by beating Top Seed Villanova in Friday evening's Semi-final in NYC(6:30 EDT-FS1). Nova waxed Providence in Thursday's first game 73-62. VU is a solid Quad 1 team. X is firmly on the slippery NCAA bubble by beating Villanova Friday no matter what the Schwab, Joey Brackets and other assorted pundits and analysts pontificate.
4 BIG EAST teams are going NCAA dancing IMHO. Butler, Creighton, DePaul and PC have now eliminated themselves. It would help tonight if #2 Seed Marquette shakes off its 4 game losing skid and knocks out St Johns(7PM-FS1). An MU win should send STJ to the NIT or home for the summer.
#3 Seton Hall plays #6 Georgetown this evening about 9:30 on FS1. An SHU win probably means NCAA curtains for the GU Hoyas. Villanova and Marquette are NCAA bound no matter what. Seton Hall has a decent resume w/ recent wins over Marquette and Villanova and ancient non-conference wins over Kentucky(at MSG) and Maryland on the road. VU, MU,SHU and XU adds up to 4.
If XU beats VU and MU beats SHU, doesn't that move Xavier safely up to #3 in BE w/o winning the automatic berth Saturday? Hell-just win 3 in NYC and be done w/ bracketology and bubbles and angst. X is playing well enough now to beat just about anybody.
THE GAME TODAY:
Xavier started slowly and nervously and trailed by 9 points early, but Coach Steele straightened things out. The defense chased CU off the 3 point line and made them take tough twos. X dominated the glass and CU settled for one and done trips. X pounded the ball low to Hankins and Jones. Quentin Gooden schooled CU Frosh PG Marcus Zegarowski on several drives.
X cruised to a 36-29 halftime lead w/ a 16 point swing their way. The Muskies fleshed the lead out to 12 early in half #2. Creighton reeled XU in and took a brief 53-52 lead w/ about 5 mins to play. The jockeying continued.
Xavier ran off 8 points to go up 60-53 as Zach Hankins proved unguardable around the rim. CU bounced back to tie at 61-61 w/ under a minute to play. X did not panic-ran a patient possession and got 3 shots at the bucket. Hankins finished things off w/ a finger tip lefty flip for a 63-61 lead.
Creighton had almost a full shot clock to tie or go ahead. X just squeezed them on defense-stalking the 3 point arc-cutting them off on the dribble-finally forcing a wild shot. Ball game over!!
Hankins played 30 plus minutes(22 points-9 rebounds-several blocked shots and altered FG trides). Naji Marshall played despite a sore ankle (11 points-8 rebounds-3 assists). Kyle Castlin came off the bench to score 10. PG Q abused the CU guards on drives. Paul Scruggs played tight physical defense.
Creighton averages 79PPG efficiently. They scored 61. X held them to 10-30 from three and outrebounded them 40-30.
NCAA hope lives!! Bring on Villanova!!!