Muskies Ace First Big East Road Test!!
Andy Mac Williams,
TEAM 95 (now 2-0) bottled the good stuff from their Big East opening 82-56 Cintas Center clubbing of Providence and uncorked the contents Saturday afternoon at Georgetown(0-2) surviving a rugged BE Pier Sixer and winning 81-76 over the Hoyas. The game was tight and physical. The score was tied 13 times. The lead changed hands 16 times. 51 total fouls were called. Xavier won the hustle stats outrebounding giant Georgetown 42-36 with a 14-6 edge on the offensive glass and outscoring GU 29-14 at the FT line. The Muskies doubled up the Hoyas in second chance points(18-9) and outscored them on the fast break (13-5).
It wasn't easy!! Trevon Bluiett made just a single FT(0-10FG) after leading the way against PC(22 points-9 rebounds-4 assists). Obviously,JT III watched the tape. G-town doubled Trevon frequently. Bluiett still contributed(7 rebounds-3 assists out of those double teams and stout defense).
The other two of Xavier's BIG THREE assumed the scoring load. PG Edmond Sumner proved unguardable (28 points-8 rebounds-6 assists in 38 dominant minutes). GT ran 5 different defenders at him. He took all 5 to the basket at will. Sumner made 14 of 17 FTs in one of the most productive games at the foul line in recent Xavier history(Tu Holloway went 17-17 at Richmond in 2010). J.P. Macura enjoyed a huge day(23 points-6 rebounds including 4 offensive boards plus 8-9 FTs).
XU inside guys chipped in by committee. Rashid Gaston got consistent great position down low(6 points-9 rebounds). Sean O'Mara played his second straight strong Big East game off the bench(8 points-4 rebounds in 13 minutes). Kaiser Gates ate up 18 minutes scoring 6. Malcolm Bernard was superb as the fifth scoring option(9 points-3 assists-3 rebounds). His wing three pointer with just under 4 minutes to play gave XU some breathing room(up 70-64).
The lead fleshed out to 8(72-64) before the Hoyas Rodney Pryor took over and scored 10 straight points. Xavier won it on Sumner's pressure FTs down the stretch and an accurate TV replay reversal of an out of bounds call with 3 seconds left and the Muskies leading 79-76. Xavier got the ball correctly. Georgetown fouled and Sumner swished two FTs for the final margin 81-76.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE ROAD WIN!!!
Xavier can survive and prosper away without peak production from all three of the BIG THREE. G-town targeted Bluiett. He kept playing and adjusted his game while Sumner and Macura wore the Hoyas out. GT got 41 points from their BIG TWO wings Pryor and Peak,but those guys had to guard somebody also and both got into foul trouble and seemed frustrated. The XU supporting cast outperformed the GU group.
Xavier seemed cooler and better organized.The Muskies slowed the hard driving wings by using a ton of 1-3-1 zone. Georgetown didn't got nuts and settle for a bunch of long threes but the zone limited their penetration,slowed their tempo and stemmed their usual parade to the foul line where they're Top 10 nationally. XU took good care of the ball against Hoya pressure-limited the turnovers to 8 and stifled GT fast break opportunities.
TEAM 95 had lost road games at Baylor and at Colorado. Close-out lessons seemingly were learned. FTs were made and turnovers dissappeared. X had lost its first BE road game in Years One thru Three(at Creighton,at DePaul,at Villanova). TEAM 95 is a leg up with the victory at Georgetown. XU is now 6-2 vs GT in New Big East play with 3 straight wins in DC.
BIG EAST AFTER THE FIRST WEEK:
Xavier,Villanova and St Johns are tied for the early lead at 2-0.Each team has recorded a road win. St Johns is the suprise team so far. The Johnnies were 1-17 in the league last season. Chris Mullin is retooling with two smallish but dynamic lefty guards(Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Lovett). JUCO Small Forward Bashir Ahmed is a triple threat scorer. Three inside guys block shots,rebound and score a little. Soph guard Malik Ellison now has a midrange game. The Red Storm won by 33 at Syracuse then beat Butler in Queens and took out DePaul in Chcago Sunday 79-73. They host Creighton this Wednesday(8:30 Fox Sports 1) before coming to Cinats next Saturday afternoon at 2:30(Fox Sports 1).
Villanova avoided an upset edging DePaul 69-66 then won Saturday's Battle of the Unbeatens winning at Creighton 80-70. VU is at Butler Wednesday(6:30 FS1). Villanova has won 20 games in a row dating back to their NCAA 6 game title run last Spring.
Seton Hall,Marquette,and Butler are 1-1 with a road loss. Creighton is 1-1 with a home loss at Cewntury Link. Georgetown,DePaul and Providence are all 0-2. The latest NCAA RPIs continue to show favorably for the Big East with Villanova#1, Xavier#4, Creighton#5 and Butler#8.
We'll have a full Scouting Report on St Johns this Thursday after their game against Creighton at Carnesseca Arena.