Scruggs and Nunge Lead Muskies Past Ohio State
By Andy Mac Williams, 11/19/2021

Very late Thursday night in the wake of Muskies 71-65 gritty goose bump producing scintillating wire-to-wire win over Ohio State at raucous rabid Cintas Center, Andy Mac is proclaiming this "W" as the best non-conference victory for X in the Modern History of Muskie Hoops (i.e starting in 1979 when Bob Staak arrived and saved the program). That, of course, in my twisted mind is except for any win any year over UC Bearcats in the Crosstown Shootout including Gillen-Huggs in OT 1990-Gillen-Huggs in the No Handshake game (OT) 1994. The Lenny Brown Game 1996."UC #1 in the Country, #2 in their own City." My only good radio line ever!! The win over the Buckeyes Thursday proved the perfect marriage of enthusiasm (born in practice over the last few days and execution. Travis Steele got GREAT RELENTLESS EFFORT out of all 8 rotational players. The last time I picked a winner Moby Dick was a minnow (Pete Gillen's Line). But without I injured Zack Freemantle (17PPG, BIG EAST rebound leader last season), I wrote that Muskies would win if they hit all of Travis's statistical goals. And I'll be DAMNED!! They did it!!

Out rebounding the burly bad boy Big Ten Buckeyes 43-35-posting the grand daddy of all hustle stats (16 offensive rebounds!!!) grinding out 7 defensive kills-the Skip Prosser special (making more FTs(14) than OSU attempted(13)-only turning the ball I'll be DAMNED!! They did it!! Out rebounding the burly bad boy Big Ten Buckeyes 43-35-posting the grand daddy of all hustle stats (16 offensive rebounds!!!) grinding out 7 defensive kills-the Skip Prosser special (making more FTs (14) than OSU attempted (13) - only turning the ball over 11 times(Steele's target number)-35+ deflections-32 bench points (+6 over deep OSU).

Muskies used hard work to win despite 5-25 3-point shooting and most were good open shots after ping ping ping pin ball reversal ball movement. X lived on balanced scoring-tough speed lay-ups and second chances. How many times since Twin Towers Tyrone Hill and Derek Strong exited for the NBA in 1990 has Xavier had two double digit rebounders in one game? Jack Nunge w/ 14 and Colby Jones w/ 12? Not many. Maybe David West and Romain Sato?

Eight guys shared the ball and all 8 hit the score sheet. Nobody dropped 25, but Paul Scruggs and Nunge each had 14-Nate Johnson added 12-Adam Kunkel 10 off the bench and Dwon Odom and Colby Jones were close(8 and 7 points).Drive after hard drive-lay-up after lay-up and OSU BIGS are nasty to bang against! It was not a lucky win. XU led all the way. They won every stat metric except blocked shots.

Muskies win by 10+ if they just knock down a couple more wide open "3s". But I'll gladly take 6 (71-65). OSU surged-cutting an 11 point lead to 3 w/ 3:20 left. Time out Travis Steele-not waiting for an overdue final media TO. He calls a perfect play. OSU swarms the alpha dog Scruggs (the 5th year closer). He draws a crowd to the far sideline then hits Nunge w/ a perfect look away pick and roll pass. Slam dunk Nunge. OSU run halted. XU plus 4.

Scruggs just took over scoring 10 down the stretch w/ three power drives plus 4-4 FTs.

"I hadn't done anything all game. The guys believed in me. I had to do something" Scruggs said in his usual blunt no BS style.

Steele on Scruggs:

"Paul is our closer. He kept us on an even keel when OSU made their runs. His grit is contagious. We will ride him as far as we can-all the way to the finish line. "

More Travis. "We were the tougher harder playing team tonight. We played a small line-up a lot and our guys just fought. I told them-we can't play volleyball w/ these guys. We gotta grab it and gain possession."

Steele on defense-holding OSU to 33%FG-turning them over 13 times-getting 10 steals.

"Holtman (OSU Coach) puts you in a bind w/ his offense-running counters-adjusting. We just gave them different looks. We fought like crazy in the post."

On PG Dwon Odom (8 points on 4-6FGs-2 steals off the bench).

"Dwon lost himself in the game. He was himself. Elite athlete-attacking the rim-defending like a demon-pushing the pace. He will play a ton that way."

More Travis:

"This is a statement game we needed to win. An opportunity realized. We played to our identity(unselfish-paint ball-tougher harder-non-stop effort). Plenty of work to do! Enjoy this now and get ready for Norfolk State (Sunday-Noon-Cintas-FS1)."

I was going to ask Travis if he might stop at Dana Gardens and drop a couple grand on drinks for the house, but I chickened out. Maybe save that for the Crosstown Shootout Dec. 11th at Cintas? What a night!!

Xavier is 3-0 chalking up a NET Quad 1 win (beating a Top 30 team at Home). Two more NET Quad 1 chances in non-conference (Friday after Thanksgiving in Preseason NIT at Barclay's Center vs either Va. Tech or Memphis and Dec 5th at Oklahoma State. GREAT RESUME WIN FOR NCAA SELECTION and SEEDING!

Here's a shocker!! BIG EAST goes 6-2 vs Big Ten in Gavitt Games. DePaul upset Rutgers late Thursday in Chicago 73-70 w/ a flurry of "3s". BIG EAST owns wins over #4 Michigan, #10 Illinois and now Xavier chips in w/ a win over #19 Ohio State (#17 Coaches Poll, #14 KenPom).

Big Ten is #1 rated Conference and #4 Conference(BIG EAST) just beat them 6 out of 8. Time to recalibrate that computer program? 6 years of Gavitt Games now dead even 24-24.

Xavier Athletic Hall of Fame dinner Saturday at Cintas (Check for times and tickets).

PG Gary Lumpkin(1995-1999) and Forward Justin Cage(2004-2007) will be inducted. Selfless 4 year starters who would fit nicely into TEAM 100's ethos.

Kudos to XU's game production staff. I loved "Hail to the Victors" Michigan's Fight Song.

Great touch introducing members of 1984 Muskies who beat Ohio State 60-57 in OT at Cincinnati Gardens. Walt McBride, Dexter"Sky Walker" Bailey, Leroy "Tragic" Grenidge and Andy Donnelly were recognized on the floor. That win over OSU was watershed for XU Hoops. Sell-out crowd-local TV on Fox 19(They played some highlights w/ Joe Sunderman and me doing the game) plus recruit Byron Larkin attended and committed to Xavier that April and the rest is very pleasant history.

MORE PROPS to the X-treme Fans and boisterous STUDENT SECTION!! The "Oral Roberts" chant was a clever historical reference. 2 Seed OSU lost to 15 Seed ORU in last season's NCAA 1st Round. Bob's Banter is a handout distributed in the student section They ran "QUICK FACTS" on Ohio State. Under enrollment there was no NUMBER just "WAY TOO MANY". Very clever-not snarky like the Dukies at Cameron Indoor!

I'm going to bed hoping the Buckeyes' bus ride back to Columbus doesn't include a rest stop in Washington Courthouse or Stringtown Road.

More thoughts following Xavier's 71-65 victory over Ohio State at Cintas Thursday night...

  • Compliments to new XU assistant coach Danny Peters. He was the prime scout for Buckeye game (extreme attention to detail).
  • OSU Coach Chris Holtman was a class act post game.
    "We didn't feel too good at shoot around here this morning when about 250 students welcomed us with a few remarks. We don't feel good after this loss, but the atmosphere tonight was just phenomenal. It's great for college basketball!! Playing true road games like this is the way we get better a building block and great prep for similar road venues in our terrific league."

    No excuses! Very positive and constructive! Holtman was asked if the absence of Forward Justice Sueing (injured) cost OSU the game.

    His response: "Xavier played without a great player(Zach Freemantle) also. It's part of the game."

  • Travis and Holtman share Butler roots and great respect for the game. Maybe there's a chance for a near future Xavier-Ohio State home and home series, but don't hold your breath. With 20 league games in both BIG EAST and Big Ten plus exempt tournaments and other special events and only 11 non-conference dates, scheduling may be problematic.
  • X hosts Norfolk State(MEAC) Sunday at noon-TV is FS1. The Spartans are 4-0(best start since 1988) and play at Bowling Green Friday(5:30 PM). Norfolk won their league last season-beat Appalachian State in NCAA First Four-then lost in a 1-16 game to Gonzaga 98-55.
  • BIG EAST is 31-4 overall in the early season w/ wins over #4 Michigan, #10 Illinois and #19 Ohio State. The losses are to #2 UCLA, at Indiana, Michigan State and Dartmouth?? Five BIG EAST teams make Ken Pomeroy's Top 50-Villanova(10) UConn(21) Seton Hall(29) Xavier(33) and St Johns(45).
  • Friday in BE-Creighton plays Brown (Ivy League) in Virgin Islands and Marquette (4-0) meets West Virginia in Charleston, S.C. MU upset Illinois Monday in Gavitt Games then KOed Mississippi (SEC) 78-72 Thursday in Charleston.
  • XU Hall Of Fame Dinner Saturday night at Cintas. Gary Lumpkin and Justin Cage will be inducted then honored on the court Sunday at halftime of Xavier-Norfolk State.

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