You can be forgiven if you entered this game with some doubts as to where Xavier was going this season. Myles Davis was gone, Edmond Sumner was injured, and a mostly untested true freshman was the only pure guard left on the squad. The Musketeers had lost four of six and fallen out of the top 25 for the first time since November of 2015. It wasn’t unreasonable to be a little gloomy about prospects on Victory Parkway.
There’s a really good chance that the first ten minutes of yesterday’s game didn’t allay your fears, either. Xavier started 2-9 from the floor, starting center Tyrique Jones was already on the bench and not looking good, and the Musketeers were well on the way to a rather unimpressive 28 point first half output. That combined with a 16-5 Seton Hall run meant the Musketeers trailed at the half. To complicate matters, Trevon Bluiett (24/7/2) was limping on a sprained ankle. In terms of responses to Ed’s injury, it wasn’t what most fans were desperately hoping for.
But something was stirring in this team. Xavier was well and truly up against the wall. There is some room left in the Musketeers March resume, but not a lot. Losing at home to Seton Hall would eat into margin for error. Trailing by six as the second half neared, its midway point, that looked more and more like a possibility, but Chris Mack’s charges answered the bell. It was Quentin Goodin (8/1/7) who keyed things. The freshman was only 2-11 from the floor, but he was never cowed by the occasion. When X went down six, Goodin found Kaiser Gates (13/8/1) for three, found Sean O’Mara for a dunk, came up with a steal and layup, and then jarred two free throws. With that 9-3 run, all either scored or assisted by Goodin, Xavier drew level.
The Musketeers kept rolling, ripping off seven more points before Seton Hall scored again. Whatever strings Coach Mack was pulling, they kept leading to the right answers. Xavier went old man at the YMCA with a 2-3 zone for parts of the game, they played their, standard man, and the dug ferociously whenever Angel Delgado got the ball. Goodin’s willingness to get in the lane with his head up opened up plenty of opportunities for ball screen action and Xavier used those to record 16 assists on 26 made baskets. Kaiser Gates and Sean O’Mara (11/5/1) looked like changed men, energized on the glass on confident on offense.
But this season is likely going to come down to the efforts of one man now. With Myles Davis and Edmond Sumner around, Trevon Bluiett could wait in the wings for his moment to take a game over or just let it come to him. Those options are gone now. Trevon is Xavier’s offense. When he’s cold, he’s going to have to shoot himself back hot. When he’s hot, Coach Mack better find a way to get him the ball better than he did in the Shootout. This team is now predicated on Trevon’s offensive stylings. Early in the game, it was clear that Tre had come to play. It was a blocked shot, three quick rebounds, a layup and a three and Bluiett looked well on his way. Then he landed awkwardly and, for one moment, Xavier fans the world over experienced crippling group nausea.
But Trevon wasn’t done. He dragged himself to his feet and walked to half court before he signaled he would need a sub. He re-emerged in the second half heavily taped and in his third pair of shoes for the game, but ready to go. When Xavier needed buckets, he provided them. It wasn’t always beautiful as the ankle slowed him down, but it was the effort of a guy who knows that his team needs him and is determined to answer the bell. Trevon doubled his output in the second half, scoring 16 points. He went 5-8 inside the arc, 3-6 from deep, and a nails 5-6 from the line. Still, with 10 seconds left, his efforts and those of his team still only had the game tied. Trevon wasn’t letting it end that way, though, and he grabbed the ball and began a circuitous drive that took him down the left side of the floor and then back into the lane where his step back jumper nestled into the cords with just four seconds to play. As the Fox Sports desk anchor said after the game “it’s good to still have at least one superstar.” Trevon Bluiett came off the mat when it mattered, and he brought his team with him. Xavier isn’t dead yet.