Andy Mac: X Prevails in Must Win Game Over Bulldogs
By Andy Mac Williams, 2/21/2021

Xavier TEAM 99 Report-Game 16-Muskies battled through some adversity at Cintas Sunday night, but bottom line-XU scored that MUST WIN over Butler 63-51 to improve to 5-4 BIG EAST and climb back over St Johns(8-8) and UConn(7-6) into 4th place. Colby Jones earned his way back into the starting line-up and posted a MONSTER stat line( 13 points on 5-8 shooting-11 rebounds-4 assists and 4 steals). Colby hands down deserves to make BIG EAST All Freshman Team and after 20 points at St Johns Tuesday he should be BE FOW. X pounded the ball inside early vs depleted Butler( w/o 3 injured veterans) and led 16-6 8 minutes in. BU adjusted-went zone and began making some "3s".

Xavier got next to nothing from outside(2-19) but survived by attacking the rim and knocking down FTs including 7 of 8 from BIGS Zach Freemantle and Jason Carter in the final 2 minutes. Butler scored only 51 points while shooting just 29.5% FG.

Travis Steele saw "D" progress.

"We showed more fight and contested shots better. Our transition defense was better. We're headed back in the right direction. Still we gave up 18 offensive rebounds We will clean that up in practice(before Wednesday at Providence-9 PM on FS1). Our identity is man-to-man-not zone-not press. We are going to keep it tight-be disciplined-contest every shot, but we're not going to become gamblers."

Muskies negotiated foul trouble to BIGs Carter and Freemantle well. 1st half-Daniel Ramsey(#2) saw his first game action since November of 2019 after multiple injury problems and a million miles on the exercycle. Daniel came up large w/ 4 points(mid-range jumper and slam dunk) plus 2 rebounds in 5 minutes. He helped XU back from a 6 point deficit.

Kyky Tandy also chipped in-in back court(5 points-2 boards in 7 first half minutes). When Freemantle picked up foul 4 on a brutal ticky tacky brush call off a hedge 40 feet from the basket, Steele went small after debating whether to use Ramsey again.

Dwon Odom joined Paul Scruggs and Jones and Nate Johnson. Odom looked like the confident pre-COVID jet of the 7-0 non-conference-bringing ball pressure defensively-attacking the rim w/ speed lay-ups(13 minutes-8 points-3 assists-0 turnovers). His 17 day COVID nightmare is now history.

Xavier should be at full strength for PC Wednesday. Valuable BIG Bryan Griffin will play after COVID pause. We now know Ramsey can play and Dieonte Miles may be ready after a slight knee tweak. BIG depth is important vs burly PC w/ Nate Watson and a flock of 6-8 leapers to go w/ him.

Bottom line-Xavier won a game they had to have by double digits(63-51) despite not handling the zone very well. Defense was better. Freemantle posted a 17 point-10 rebound double-double despite foul trouble. Jason Carter scored 10.

PC Friars would be NET Quad 2 road win. We'll see how NETs line-up Monday morning. X should tick up a little from 50. Seton Hall is 49 w/ UConn at 52.

Bracketmatrix had Muskies listed in 97 of 103 NCAA brackets w/ an average seed of 9.85. Obviously there is NCAA and BIG EAST Tourney 1st Round bye work to do, but Andy Mac is feeling better after Butler-knowing full well Providence will be a slugfest in their tiny on-campus gym.

Paul Scruggs will play unlike last Feb when he sat and Muskies still almost beat a red hot Friar team w/ Diaolo and Duke and Watson and PG Pipkins etc.

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