Xavier TEAM 100 topped off a crazy 2021-22 basketball season on an extreme HIGH Thursday night at Madison Square Garden edging Texas A&M (SEC) 73-72 to win the NIT Championship. Jack Nunge scored the winning basket on a running right hand hook shot over a double team with 3.4 secs. left off a well executed baseline in-bounds play. A&M had the ball last. XU forced Tyrece Radford to catch the ball deep in the backcourt. He speed dribbled to about 18 feet and shot it. The ball rimmed out at the buzzer.
XU made it look too easy early-leading by 9 (15-6) about 5 minutes in. Muskies cut up the swarming Aggie defense making the extra pass. Texas A&M regrouped and uncorked their chaos defense-speeding XU up. A&M built a 40-32 lead at the half- a 17 swing over 15 minutes.
A&M grabbed control w/ their dribble drive game getting to FT line(9-10) while X made just 2 of 3 FTs. 2-11 from 3 point range did not help Muskies. They settled for a bunch of one and done offensive trips.
Colby Jones and Dwon Odom kept X within hailing distance scoring 14 and 10 respectively but a halftime reset was needed.
Interim coach Jonas Hayes worked his magic again. He played more 2 BIG line-up after halftime. XU mixed zone and man looks-scrapped well for loose balls and forced A&M to launch more jumpers vs their preferred driving game. Sticky XU defense produced one and done Aggie trips. X regained their rebounding mojo and tied it at 52-52 w/ under 12 to play.
The final 10 minutes produced numerous lead changes and plenty of basket trading. Wings Adam Kunkel and Nate Johnson chipped in big time after slow 1st halves combining for 11 points.
X took a 68-63 lead w/ 3:57 left after a Johnson corner "3" then a Johnson poke-away steal and two Dwon Odom FTs. A&M clawed back to take a 72-71 lead w/ 26 seconds left after two Quentin Jackson FTs. Then came the final sequence w/ the Nunge FG and Aggie missed FG at the buzzer.
Xavier survived shaky FT shooting (8-15) while A&M hit 21-25 from the foul line. X made it up w/ decent 3 point shooting(7-18) and heavy scoring in the paint.
Soph Colby Jones (21 points-4 Rebs-3 A 3 steals) played all 40 minutes. IMHO Colby was Game and overall NIT MVP. Dwon Odom played his best game yet - 35 minutes-18 points on drives and pull-ups-strong defensive ball pressure-shared ball handling duties w/ Colby. Both are Sophomores! Their futures are bright hopefully with Xavier. Head coach in waiting Sean Miller has seen the best of both players in 4 NIT games.
He has offered Jonas Hayes the associate head coach job. Hayes has been excellent in the wake of Travis Steele's departure and in recruiting and BIG MAN position coaching. Ideally, Jonas stays and supplies much roster stability.
Jack Nunge had a GREAT game (15 points-11 rebounds-feisty rim protection-smart decisions). Nunge has a year of eligibility remaining to tack on another graduate degree.
What a wild ride to 23-13 (final record). X was 15-1 in non-conference games and 5-0 in the NIT w/ the 3 of the wins over SEC teams Florida, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. The Aggies had won their 1st 4 NIT tilts by 15PPG giving up just 57PPG. X put the whammy on those numbers.
Muskies will raise the NIT 2022 Championship Banner at Cintas to hang near the 1958 NIT banner.
Now the fun really begins!! Coach Miller has been meeting recruits and assembling a staff and anticipating the transfer portal and maybe considering international player options. Things will move quickly.
The core of TEAM 100 will be welcomed back certainly. WHO? and HOW MANY? Coaching and support staff should contain several familiar names. Adds from the transfer portal may be coming. Subtractions,hopefully, not so much?
Miller has added key transfers before(at XU-Jordan Crawford and C.J. Anderson-at Arizona-Mark Lyons and several others). Sean's Global contacts are good-witness recent Arizona rosters. Strange year-14-3 then 4-10 then 5-0 in NIT plus a coaching change!
Congrats to Travis Steele. He will be introduced as the new Miami Redhawks head coach Friday. They obviously liked what saw-great recruiting record-70-50 at Xavier w/ 3 wins in 4 tries vs UC. His brother John Groce is head man at Akron in the MAC. Don't expect XU to travel up Route 27 to play at Millett Hall though.
Muskies salvage the season w/ this NIT WIN and set things up well for Miller Time Part 2 starting this Summer. Stay tuned!! We'll try to keep up here w/ player moves and other Muskie News!!