Andy Mac: X Comes Up Large Against Bluejays
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier TEAM 99 Update-Game 18 Report-Muskies came up LARGE at Cintas Saturday-derailing #13 Creighton 77-69 in basically a "MUST WIN" situation. CU came in smoking (4 straight wins by an average of 15PPG including a blow-out victory over BIG EAST leader Villanova. Travis Steele knows his Muskies. He said after the loss at PC that X was not far off from playing well and damned if Xavier didn't play their best game since blowing out Top 25 Oklahoma 99-77 way back on Dec. 9th. X led almost all the way-employing renewed defensive urgency holding Blue Jays to 10 points below their average-blocking 9 shots-stalking the 3 point line and outrebounding Creighton 36-32.
The Muskie bench stepped up w/ Adam Kunkel, Bryan Griffin, C.J. Wilcher and Kyky Tandy combining for 19 points-5 assists and 4 rebounds. Kunkel scored 12 w/ critical buckets down the stretch. Xavier stops the bleeding (3 losses in 4 games) and moves to 13-5 overall, 6-5 BE, 5th still within hailing distance of 3rd place UConn(9-6) and 4th place Seton Hall(10-7).
5th place would net XU a 1st Round BET bye at MSG. PC and St Johns are both 8-9 and tied for 6th. Sunday morning should find Xavier's NET improved from #57 maybe into the 40s. The win over Creighton(#18 NET) was as good as it gets analytically-Quad 1.
X played its most complete game since Oklahoma attacking the basket-not settling for just "3s"-shooting plus 50% FG and making 6-8 FTs. Hard to believe but X only reached FT bonus territory w/ just 35 seconds left. Creighton chased Xavier almost all night but doubled their FT attempts.
Not to rip the officials, but as usual Paul Scruggs was mugged repeatedly on his twisting drives. CU enforcer hand checked on every possession. Colby Jones was blown up by two Blue Jays on one critical drive w/ XU up just 69-66 and 2:29 left-no foul-no FTs. Luckily, Muskies got defensive stops and steals then Kunkel and Dwon Odom fleshed out the lead to 73-66 w/ 1:09 remaining.
KEY STAT!! Xavier recorded 8 KILLS (3 stops in a row). X was scrappy and determined. They won most 50-50 ball battles.
Senior Paul Scruggs was HUGE(23 points-7 rebounds-5 assists) in 37 minutes of pure effort. Zach Freemantle posted his 5th straight double-double(17 points-10 rebounds). Frosh PG Dwon Odom made CU star Markus Zegarowski earn his points w/ manic defense. Odom tied up David Duke at PC. His overall game vs Creighton was his best work( 12 points-4 assists-3 rebounds-2 steals and 2 blocks). Odom and Scruggs complement each other as PG 1 and 1A (like Holloway and Lyons but w/ more size).
Colby Jones played a brilliant all court game. 6 points-4 rebounds-4 assists and 2 blocks tells 25% of his story, He had been roughed up at PC(smacked in the nose-cut over the eye). No problem!! #3 played 30 minutes-defended like demon and posted a plus 25 in a game his team won by 8 points. No wonder Travis kept him on the floor after foul 2 and foul 3 and foul 4. Colby was indispensable!!
At times Steele had 3 Frosh (Odom, Jones and Wilcher on the floor together against a veteran NCAA bound Creighton team. The future is bright and now so is the present after this impactful win.
X has road games at Georgetown Tuesday (7PM-FS1) and at Marquette Saturday (9PM EST-FS1). Time to stack some wins-replicate the Creighton effort and role into BET w/ a 1st Round bye and plenty of mojo!!
This Muskie win over Top 25 Creighton is a freaky mirror image of Xavier's upset on #9 rated Creighton back in 2014 only better.
Elsewhere in BIG EAST Saturday-UConn jumped into 3rd place(9-6) mashing Marquette 80-62 in Storrs. MU had won 83-70 at North Carolina Wednesday. Also-Georgetown handled DePaul 68-60 in Chicago. Hoyas are playing well (3 wins in last 4 games including an upset of Seton Hall. It's a quick turn around to XU at G-town Tuesday (7PM-FS1).
One BE game Sunday - Villanova(10-2) BE leader plays Butler in Indianapolis (Noon-CBS).