X Battles Back to Knock Off Kent State
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier Game #2 Report-Muskies battle thru turnover trouble (13-1st half when 40 minute goal is 11 or fewer) - win 2nd half BIG(42-23 +19) and club Kent State (Mid-American) 73-59 at Cintas. XU now 2-0. Earn Saturday off. Begin prep for Top 25 Ohio State Sunday. X vs Buckeyes Thursday at Cintas (6:30 Tip-FS1) in Gavitt Games (BIG EAST vs Big Ten).
The first 28 minutes were not easy! Kent led by 10 seven minutes into the ball game and by 5 at the half (36-31). Muskies wasted a lot of possessions w/ sloppy ball handling. Shots were not falling.
K St PG Sincere Carry (Duquesne transfer) controlled the pace w/ his dribble. G Flashes hit rainbow "3s" and tough contested speed lay-ups and made all their FTs(8-8). Cincy Hughes HS product Giovanni Santiago scored 7.
XU did control the glass though 23-16 rebound edge + Paul Scruggs and Colby Jones kept Xavier in contact. Halftime was interesting! Travis Steele could hear Scrugg's deep direct blunt voice through the dressing room door before he entered after huddling w/ his assistants. "We needed to buck up and guard." Captain Scruggs laid down the marching orders.
X began 2nd half on 5-0 run. It was Junkyard Dog time. Jerome Hunter grabbed 3 offensive boards on one possession. X tied it. But Kent proved stubborn. Muskies took their 1st lead (43-42) w/ 15 minutes left. Kent led 50-47 w/ 12 to go. Scruggs stepped in again. "We just drew a line-enough is enough."
Scruggs matched up against Carry who'd scored 16 and limited him to 2 FTs the rest of the way w/ elite ball screen help from Dieonte Miles. Xavier dominated outscoring Kent 26-9 over 12+ minutes.
Steele on Miles: "He's a unique player-didn't score a point but had huge impact w/ his speed and length. He could be the best defender in our league."
Carry went nowhere on his drives. X delivered 3 or 4 shot clock violations w/ their sticky defense. And the offense flourished after halftime(42 points). "We slowed things down and ran more set plays. We fed the post and played paint ball inside-out and got to the FT line. Iowa transfer 7 footer Jack Nunge made a HUGE impact (11 points-6 boards-2 blocks in 15 minutes). He pinned his man low and scooped up bounce pass post feeds and scored plus along w/ Dieonte changed a bunch of K St shots inside(9 total team blocked shots). Nunge and Miles job shared nicely at Center.
And Xavier cleaned up the ball handling (only 3 2nd half turnovers). Steele loved the numbers. 20 Offensive rebounds (way North of goal-15). 8 Kills(3 stops in a row) Goal 7. And a Skip favorite! Muskies made more Free Throw (17) than Kent attempted (14). You win 9 of 10 when you do that.
Travis had lost the Defection Number (Goal 35) because his notes were washed out as players doused him w/ water to celebrate his birthday.
Steele labeled Kent "a tricky game." I know Coach Senderoff well. We talk almost every week. His teams are always near the top of a very good league (MAC). They've pulled some upsets early (Miami over Ga Tech, Northern Illinois over Washington). My brother's Akron team just lost 67-66 at Ohio State. Kent is veteran and tough to play against." Maybe a risky Game 2 but a great way to get ready for Game 3 vs Ohio State.
Colby Jones was excellent again(19 pointe-8 rebounds-6 offensive). He drew 7 fouls(hard to guard) and banged in critical FTs (6-7). Scruggs played 38 minutes(23 points-7 boards-3 assists-3 steals). X creamed Kent on the glass(48-29).
Jerome Hunter may still be finding his game on offense (2-8 FG-6 points) but the man works-9 rebounds-3 assists-2 steals and the best plus player(+22) by far. The new Junkyard Dog necklace-medal-chain (whatever it is) for unsung hustle plays when to the whole team after Hunter won it solo for the Niagara game.
Niagara gave Ohio State a tussle in Columbus Friday. Buckeyes led just 42-41 at the half and won 84-74 to go 2-0. OSU plays Bowling Green (MAC) Monday before coming to Cintas Thursday. Ohio State got a HUGE game from post E.J. Liddell (29 points). They started 6-5 Frosh Malaki Branham (Akron St Vincent-St Marys) at guard and played Seniors Kyle Young and Justice Suing who'd missed Game#1 w/ injuries.
BIG EAST now 15-1 in new season. Villanova lost in OT at #2 UCLA early Saturday morning Cincy time. Nova led 67-63 at Pauley Pavilion w/ 1:53 left in regulation. UCLA tied it. Nova lost 86-77 in OT.