Muskies Overcome Omaha!! Clip Creighton 82-80!! Now Second in Big East!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier's road win Saturday afternoon over Creighton at sold-out Century Link Center in Omaha wasn't pretty,but it sure was gritty!!! XU had several chances to fold the tent after a very decent start(ahead 22-17 7 minutes into the game). Things began swimmingly for the Muskies. They attacked inside posting up Frosh BIG Tyrique Jones repeatedly against CU's RS Frosh 7 footer Justin Patton. Tyrique scored 8 quickly as Patton gave ground and the NBA scouts scribbled their notes. Frosh PG Quentin Gooden played well from the get go.
Creighton decided to let him shoot from three and "Q" made them pay. CU took advantage of a long Xavier scoring drought-went on a 9-0 run and grabbed a 24-22 lead 7:50 before halftime. XU continued to struggle missing lay-ups and giving Creighton open looks from three over the Muskies' 2-3 zone. CU drilled 8 of 16 from outside the arc while X missed chances at the rim.
Xavier seemed to dominate physically ,but Creighton just made shots at critical times and cruised to a 43-34 lead at the break. J.P Macura scored only 2 for the Muskies(saddled with 3 fouls). Trevon Bluiett was slowed by an ankle twist.CU bombed in three pointers whenever Xavier started to make any sort of run. Excuses were piling up for a Xavier fade on the road.
SECOND HALF RESILIENCE!!!
Creighton kept Xavier at arm's length early in the second half.but the Muskies started to make inroads. Tyrique Jones kept doing damage in the paint(finishing with a career high 16 points on 8-8 shooting). Macura kept hustling and began to score. XU went man defense and got stops forcing one and done possessions.
Creighton struggled controling the Muskies' dribble drives,but the zebras swallowed their whistles repeatedly when XU had the ball. Bluiett let loose verbally on an official after a mugging and no call. Trevon was Teed up. Creighton took a 57-50 lead.
Xavier kept fighting and clawed back combining stops with Creighton Ft misses and timely Muskie shooting.The XU offense was balanced. The Three ball was working. The Blue Jays left Gooden alone outside and he buried three long balls. Bluiett and Macura drained critical long looks. Kaiser Gates attacked the basket and made pressure FTs(9 points-9 rebounds-4-4FTs). Rashid Gaston helped bang Patton inside(7 points-5 rebounds).
XU tied CU at 69 heading into the final 4 minute war. Coach Mack reminded the team about their late melt down against Creighton(72-67 loss at Cintas on MLK Day). Point well taken. CU unravelled this time with FT misses and blown lay-ups. Xavier survived late turnovers against the press and won a close one 82-80.
Frosh post Jones scored 16 points in 18 minutes primarily against a potential NBA first round draft choice. Frosh PG Gooden scored 15 in 38 minutes with 5 assists and 5 steals. "Q" is now 3-0 as the Muskies' primary PG(wins over St Johns,Seton Hall and Creighton). Bluiett played 40 minutes on a twisted ankle(16 points-7 rebounds-4 assists). Macura bounced back with 13 second half points and stayed on the floor despite a lower leg injury. Bench BIGS Gates and Gaston job shared for 16 points-14 rebounds and 3 assists.
Xavier powered past a rabid sell-out crowd-shakey officiating-iffy FT shooting(8-14) and a Top 25 Creighton team to post a third BE road win and advance to second in the conference at 7-3 behind Villanova(9-2). The Muskies won the rebounding numbers,outmuscled Creighton inside(36-24 edge in paint points) kept the turnovers low(8) shared the ball(18 assists on 32 FGs) and they drilled the open threes created by good ball movement.
17-6 overall with a 13 RPI is not a bad place to be in early February. It was a great week for XU with 3 wins in 7 days and a probable return to the AP Top 25 despite the loss of Edmond Sumner.
Home games are running low(4 left-DePaul and Villanova this week-then Butler and Marquette). DU comes to Cintas Wednesday night(6:30 FS1). The Blue Demons are last in the Big East(1-9,8-15 overall) with a 6 game losing streak. Their best moments have come at home in Chicago(64-63 win over Providence-OT loss to Butler-tight defeats to St Johns and Georgetown).
DU was blown-out at All State Saturday 92-79 by Marquette They opened the BE schedule by scaring Villanova-losing 68-65 at the Pavilion. Overall on the road DU is a nasty 0-6 though.
They are improved in year two of the Dave Leitao coaching regime-better organized-better defensively-much more feisty. 6-5 Senior PG Billy Garrett is a four year starter and plus 1,000 point scorer(16PPG-4 assists-3 rebounds). He can control a game late if Xavier allows DU to hang around.
Soph Wing Eli Cain is All League calibre(17PPG). He scores from every where and has the total green light. Juco Forward TreDarius Mc Collum(10 PPG-7REB) is a solid player. Frosh Brandon Cyrus has been starting and played well Saturday vs Marquette(12 points). 6-7 Joe Hanel starts at the "5". Snipers Chris Harrison Docks(Butler-Western Kentucky) and Darrick Wood roll off the bench and jack threes.
DePaul is undersized and outmanned most nights,but they have been competitive. Their top three players(Garrett,Cain and Mc Collum) are very good.
XU is 5-1 vs DePaul in New Big East games with a 3-0 record at Cintas. If XU takes a breath after good wins over St Johns,Seton Hall and Creighton,the Blue Demons could be trouble.
Xavier has a huge edge inside plus better depth and size and the home court advantage. This is no time for a stumble!!! Xavier 85 DePaul 71. Villanova comes to Cintas Saturday afternoon at 2:30.