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Xavier bursts out of the gates, holds on late against Seton Hall

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With Nova falling earlier in the night, Xavier had a chance to stretch their conference lead to 1.5 games. They answered the bell from the jump.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Xavier
There’s a metaphor in here somewhere.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Seton Hall came into this game a wounded animal. Bruised, angry, and backed up against a wall by three straight losses and dropping five of seven, the Pirates were in a position widely recognized as dangerous for anyone approaching them.

Instead, Xavier just walked up and put the animal down.

Trevon Bluiett drilled a three with his first touch that proved to be a harbinger of things to come. He hit another three the next time he touched the ball. By the time the half closed, Trevon had 5 threes and Xavier had hit 9 as a team. If the half had been a half second longer, X would have had 10, but Q’s buzzer-beating heave was called off.

It wasn’t just offense in the first half for X though. In answer to Xavier’s 9-17 from deep, Seton Hall could must just 8-30 from the floor. The Muskies were closing down the boards and winning loose balls, and it was no accident that they entered the half up 45-25.

After that, things got weird. Seton Hall would chip away, then Xavier would answer with a couple of baskets to get it back out to 17 or so. Then, with just over 9 minutes remaining in the half, Tyrique Jones got called for a foul - rightfully so - on an offensive rebound attempt. Sean O’Mara protested from the bench and Jamie Luckie stuck him with a tech.

Then the refs went to the table for some reason. Seton Hall made both technical free throws, then got a bucket on the ensuing possession. Then the refs went to the table again. After that, Seton Hall shot two more free throws for reasons never adequately explained.

Xavier’s momentum was broken, and their defense was frankly miserable down down the stretch. Seton Hall kept hitting shots, questionable calls kept getting made, and a game that had been flowing nicely ground to a halt.

By the time all was said and done, almost 50 free throws had been shot in a game that didn’t demand it. It wasn’t what it should have been, but Xavier walked out a winner to line up a huge matchup with Nova on the weekend.

Tre is locking in

There was some muttering about Tre’s line against Creighton, mostly because it was really unimpressive. Freed from the shackles of Khyrifense and back on his home court, Tre put the whispers to bed tonight by drilling five threes in the first half on his way to a season-high in scoring and made threes. If Seton Hall had a scouting report on him, it wasn’t a very good one.

Kaiser Gates is struggling

Anytime you get a three blocked, you’re not having a great moment. That was just the visible portion of Kaiser’s iceberg of disappointment tonight though, as he once again couldn’t get anything going from the floor and doubled down by being absent on the boards as well. Gates has all the tools to be a force as a tertiary option on this team, but the margin between where he is now and Big East Jeff Robinson is increasingly fine.

Naji Marshall is a force

Thank goodness for this kid. Xavier’s supporting cast around Trevon is as deep as you could hope, but Naji was the star of it tonight. His burst and length are obvious tools, but his movement off the ball is so intelligent that it sets him up for buckets someone with the athleticism of John Candy could convert. He was on his game tonight and posted a career-high in scoring.

The ref show is a thing

Something happened with 9 minutes left. I’m not sure what. Tyrique got called for a foul, then Big Sean got a tech from the bench... then Seton Hall shot FTs, got the ball, then got to shoot more FTs. What happened was never adequately explained, but that didn’t stop three refs from turning 21 seconds of game time into a fifteen minute debacle focused mainly on them. Frickin’ Jamie Luckie.