X Victorious Over Georgetown on Senior Night
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier stabilized its NCAA Tournament chances Saturday at Cintas-blitzing Georgetown 97-75-employing sharp shooting(14-25 from "3" 56%)-sharing the ball religiously (32 assists on 35 FGs) and playing stingy defense at least for the 1st half (XU led 54-30 at the break-producing 6 Kills(3 defensive stops in a row). Muskies are very much alive for the NCAA(18-12, 8-11 BIG EAST, with a solid 37 NET). Next step is the BET at Madison Square Garden. 8th seed XU plays 9th seed Butler Wednesday afternoon (4:30-FS1). X beat Butler twice in the regular season.
Senior Night went well for guards Paul Scruggs and Nate Johnson. Scruggs played in his 148th game(XU record) scored 9 w/ 4 rebounds and 4 assists and moved into 15th on the All Time Muskie points scored list. Johnson seemed fully recovered from a knee bruise scoring 25-making 7 of 11 "3s" and adding 4 assists w/ no turnovers.
Travis Steele played a small line-up for HUGE minutes-mixing 3 of four guards (Scruggs, Johnson, Dwon Odom and Adam Kunkel) w/ Colby Jones at "4" and Jack Nunge the lone BIG (operating from the high post). Basically, it was an open post 5 out set-up. It worked artistically (great ball movement-open shots-terrific entertainment) and analytically (the top 5 players were a collective +93). The ball popped-moved pinged.
Kunkel(8), Jones(7), Johnson(4) and Odom(4) teamed up for 23 assists and 1 measly turnover. Nunge went for 16 points and 9 boards. Colby roamed all over hustling for 16 points and 6 rebounds. XU seemed to play free and loose-shedding their recent funk and enjoying the moment.
Travis Steele after the game:
"People tend to pile on when things aren't going well and they let you know it. We told the guys to trust each other and our systems and believe in what we do and this will turn around fast. We took Thursday off after St. Johns and packed all our Georgetown prep into one day and we just focused on us. It's a fine line between urgency and playing loose and I think we found it."
"I'm so proud of our Seniors. Paul has meant so much for the program over 5 years. Nate changes our team. He's good at both ends. He allows us to go on runs." (As in Skip Prosser's proprietary term "spurtability" which is the happy confluence of consistent scoring and stringing defensive stops).
The game was fun. The crowd was "into it". X threaded the needle between pressure induced tightness and free flowing basketball.
A win over Butler Wednesday in NYC should net an NCAA berth. Thursday's Quarterfinal opponent would be #1 Seed Providence (Noon-FS1). We'll keep you abreast of NCAA analytics as they evolve and preview XU-Butler over the next few days.