MUSKIES WEATHER TOLEDO!! HEAD DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS!!
Andy Mac Williams,
The Toledo Rockets limped into Cintas Wednesday night low on fuel minus a starting PG Marrean Jackson and a starting PF Willie Jackson-both injured in a MAC Tournament upset loss to Northern Illinois. TU coach Todd Kowalcysk dressed 10 guys and played 6. His only chance was to slow tempo-stand in a 3-2 zone and frustrate Xavier into bad shots and forced possessions. It worked for 18 minutes.Toledo led 25-23 w/ just over 2 to play in the 1st half on the NIT opening round game. TU drained 5 threes despite the longer NIT 3 point line. They ran intricate multi-pass plays and hit back door lay-ups riding their 4 year Senior stars Sanford(great guard) and Navigato(deadly outside sniper). X took a while to solve the stubborn zone. When they finally did, it was off to the races w/ a 51 point second half leading to a 78-64 Muskie victory. Xavier improves to 19-15, 13-5 at Cintas w/ 8 wins in their last 10 games.
Next up and NIT Second Round road game vs Texas(BIG 12) in Austin Sunday afternoon(4PM EDT-ESPN). The UT Longhorns held off South Dakota State 79-73 Tuesday in Texas. They're the 2 seed and Xavier is the 3 seed in their 8 team NIT pod. #4 Colorado beat #4 Dayton and #8 Norfolk State upset #1 Alabama(SEC) in Round 1. Norfolk plays Colorado in Boulder Monday night(9PM-ESPN).
If XU beats Texas, the Muskies host the Colorado-Norfolk winner in the NIT Quarterfinals next Wednesday at Cintas.
Xavier showed their true colors late in half one. Tyrique Jones pulled off an acrobatic block against a 6-11 Rocket. Quentin Goodin grabbed the loose ball and drove coast to coast throwing down an amazing devastating forceful powerful intimidating tomahawk right hand dunk. "Q" flat-out flushed it. I was parked under the basket-ready to do my halftime coaches' interview.
Quentin took off just below the FT line-elevated majestically and rammed the rock home. Exclamation point!!! Done!!! Ball game over right there!! Enough is enough!! Toledo-YOU ARE TOAST!!
Travis Steele then called time-out after a stop. The Muskies ran a back door lob play to close the half. TU popped a surprise 1-3-1 zone look. Goodin threw one up for Tyrique. He just missed stuffing it. Message delivered!!
The Muskies pressed some to force up the tempo. They clamped on half court ball pressure vs the Toledo guards. X attacked the rim on offense-steadily built the lead to 20 points and cruised home letting the walk-ons play the final minute or so 78-64 Xavier. Goodin's floor game continues to be excellent(24 assists-just 4 turnovers last 4 games w/ 3 wins).
Naji Marshall returned to All BIG EAST form(20 points-21 rebounds-6 assists-4 steals). The ankle is better and Marshall actually got to practice fully for a couple days.
It's XU's first 20-20 game since David West(also Hargrave Military) in 2001. Tyrone Hill and Derek Strong both went for 20 points + and 20 boards in a wild January 1990 115-113 epic win over Loyola Marymount(Hank Gathers-Bo Kimble) at Cincinnati Gardens Maybe the most entertaining game in Xavier history??
Travis Steele's 8 man rotation worked like a charm. Marshall, Jones and Gooden did their things. Scruggs attacked at both ends of the floor and BIG ZACH did anything he wanted down low. The bench guys rotated in perfectly. Elias harden made shots(8 points). Castlin and Welage played their roles.
This team could easily roll on to Madison Square Garden. A 2 seed would have insured 3 potential home games at Cintas. X IMHO deserved a 2. The four NIT #1 Seeds by NCAA rule wen to the First 4 out of the NCAA Filed of 68(UNC Greensboro, Alabama, Indian and TCU). Now Xavier at a 3 seed must travel to Texas??
EARLY TAKE ON THE LONGHORNS:
UT is 17-16 after their 79-73 NIT home win over well decorated experienced South Dakota State last Tuesday in Austin. 1700 was the announced attendance. Texas led by 19 living by the three early. SDSU clawed back riding 6-9 star Mike Daum(3000+ points-#8 All Time NCAA scorer). The Longhorns just held on to win.
Shaka Smart coaches UT(4th season). He took VCU to a surprising Final 4 in 2011 employing his unique 40 minute full court pressing style(Havoc). Texas presses some but not the full 40 now. UT is uber talented but volatile(wins over North Carolina, Purdue, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State) and losses to Radford, Providence, Georgia.
Moeller HS product Jackson Hayes(6-11) won BIG 12 Freshman of the Year, but he's out w/ a knee injury. Top talent Kerwin Roach was suspended for 5 games late in the season and just returned vs SDSU. Smart has taken Texas to 2 NCAAS and lost both times in Round 1.
The football mad fan base in Austin is restless and the NIT is not satisfying their discomfort. UT is deep and talented and used to top line Big 12 competition.
The Muskies will need a terrific effort to pull a win out of Austin Sunday afternoon and get back to Cintas. More on Texas Saturday here and on Twitter.