X Cruises Past Florida in 2nd Round of NIT Tournament
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier TEAM 100 worked through the trauma of coach Travis Stele's dismissal and focused successfully on playing winning basketball-posting a dominating 72-56 win over the SEC Florida Gators Sunday at Cintas in NIT 2nd Round. Muskies win the right to host NIT Quarterfinal game Tuesday (9:00 p.m., ESPN). X will play another SEC team-Vanderbilt. The Commodores took out NIT #1 overall seed Dayton Sunday in Nashville 70-68 in OT so XU avoids a 3rd Round game at UD Arena. Vandy (19-16, 9-9 SEC) owns NIT wins over Belmont and Dayton. The Dores beat Georgia and Alabama in the SEC Tourney before losing 77-71 to Kentucky. VU has won 5 of 6. Scotty Pippin Jr. is their star(32 points vs UD). They're coached by former North Carolina legend and NBA player Jerry Stackhouse.
Xavier played Vandy in late October in their NCAA secret scrimmage. Nobody knows or remembers what happened?? but neither Jack Nunge nor Zach Freemantle played (injuries). Back to Xavier-Florida!
Interim head coach Jonas Hayes and staff did well preparing the players. Effort was strong. They shared the ball unselfishly (18 assists on 26 FGs-5 players double figures in points). X limited Florida to 56 points (just 23 in 2nd half).
The Gators average 75PPG. Muskies blanketed Fla's best post player-Colin Castleton(just 10 points on 8 shots). So Florida settled for jumpers(6-30 from "3"-just 1-19 2nd half). Coach Jonas played mostly w/ just one BIG-rotating in Nunge, Freemantle and Frosh Cesare Edwards-matching up better w/ Gator's 4 guard look.
"L just had a hunch that look would work for us. We had a share the ball mindset and a goal of 20 assists. 18 is right in range. We did pretty well dealing with adversity. And we're excited to play again with a goal to win a championship. Most teams are home now-done. We're still going."
X piled up some strong numbers outrebounding UF 43-32-outscoring the Gators 16 to 8 at FT line. The three BIGS job shared for 24 points and 17 rebounds.
One HUGE downer-Super Senior PG Paul Scruggs went down early 2nd half w/ a knee injury. He did not return and was using crutches after the game. Scruggs sits 14th All Time in XU scoring and 5th in assists and #1 in Games Played (151) with a record 4 wins over UC in the Crosstown Shootout)a sure fire future Xavier Hall of Famer). If X advances to NIT Final 4 in NYC, maybe he can be ready? If not, what a career!!
Dwon Odom played brilliantly at PG(27 minutes-10 points-7 rebounds-3 assists and +16. Coach Hayes' close the game line-up (Odom, Adam Kunkel, Nate Johnson, Colby Jones and Nunge all were +12 or better-protected the ball and made their FTs.
So it's Vandy not Dayton Tuesday at Cintas for a trip to MSG. NIT Semis and Finals are March 29 and 31 in NYC.
Expect a Seam Miller Welcome-Re-introduction Press Event Thursday or Friday. Sean is already working on the player roster for XU TEAM 101 plus putting together this coaching and support staff. He may well keep a number of current staff members whom he's coached, hired and worked w/ previously.