X Rolls Past Bonnies to Advance to NIT Championship Game
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier TEAM 100 rolled right into NYC on their revenge tour and swatted a good A-10 St Bonaventure team 84-77 in the NIT Semi-Finals at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night. Muskies now meet either Texas A&M or Washington State Thursday(7 PM EDT on ESPN) for NIT Title at MSG. XU followed their successful NIT script(4 straight wins) sharing the ball (5 players scoring in double figures) and getting maximum mileage from their BIG MAN job share. Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge split time at the "5" and combined for 36 points-14 rebounds and 4 assists-making 15 of 19 FGs. Xavier exorcised their MSG demons-snapping a 3 game BIG EAST Tourney losing streak at the World's Most Famous Arena. XU is now 14-1 so far this season on teams outside the BIG EAST.
XU led by 15 at the half(38-23). St Bonnies kept pecking away-cutting the lead to 65-60 w/ 5:36 left. X then answered every challenge down the stretch-making pressure FTs-drawing charges-breaking the SBU press and hitting BIG shots to win by 7 (84-77).
Interim coach Jonas Hayes pushed all the right levers-going al most exclusively w/ 4 guards and one BIG. He used his bench judiciously against an SBU team that basically played 5 guys. X crushed SBU on the glass 38-28-moved the ball unselfishly (18 assists on 34 FGS) and mixed in 8 made "3s" at key moments.
Dwon Odom was superb again at PG-cutting up the Bonnie defense w/ his dribble drives and pestering Bonnies PG Kyle Lofton. Colby Jones did a lot of the ball handling and stuffed the stat sheet as usual(16 points-8 rebounds-4 assists).
Adam Kunkel poured in 15 2nd half points (18 total) and kept XU afloat and ahead in a basket trading 2nd half. Nate Johnson shot selectively (just 8 FGA) but scored 10 with 5 assists and 4 boards. He snared a key rebound and drew a late charge when SBU clawed within 5.
Sean Miller attended the game at MSG, gaining valuable info as he begins putting XU TEAM 101 together.
Vegas favored St Bonnies by 1.5 points. XU was too deep-too connected-too efficient to be caught after building the large 1st half lead. SBU had won 11 of 13 coming into NYC w/ NIT road wins at Colorado, at Oklahoma and at Virginia.
X now has a chance to be one of two NCAA D-1 teams to win its final game (The other the NCAA Champ to be crowned Monday).
Xavier won the NIT in 1958. Wednesday we'll scout Muskies' Thursday NIT Championship Game opponent, Texas A&M (SEC).