When you are gunning for a #1 seed and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, you have to be able to close a team out. Xavier did not do that today. After leading by 17 points in the second half, Xavier collapsed on both ends of the floor, culminating in disastrous final possessions of both regulation and overtime. This one hurts because of the way it happened, but X lives to fight another day and will look forward to an exciting Selection Sunday.
Scruggs has become a real weapon
The highest rated recruit in Xavier’s most recent class, Paul Scruggs started the year looking like a player out of his depth at this level and it was hard to see how he would factor in to Xavier’s success this season. Fast forward 3 and a half months and Scruggs has become a vital part of Xavier’s rotation as they surged to a Big East title. Tonight he matched his career high with 13 points in the first half and was key in Xavier establishing a huge big enough lead that they could play like steamed garbage for 15 minutes and still make it to overtime.
Defense is still a concern
30 hours after completely blowing the doors off of St. John’s, Xavier found themselves in a situation where they could put a team away down the stretch and have a comfortable second half. Instead, they set about making Nate Watson look like Lew Alcindor for the next 15 minutes and saw their 17 point advantage evaporate as they simply failed to get enough stops to keep the Friars at bay.
... But what was that offense?
All Xavier had to over the last 15:20 of this game was not get outscored by 17 points and they were home free. Instead, Xavier contrived to score 16 points over the rest of regulation, owing their lack of success to a litany of misses in the post, Trevon Bluiett having an off night, and general apathy on the offensive end. The ball wasn’t moving, the shots weren’t falling, and, as bad as the defense was, Xavier really should have been able to score enough to bring this one home, but they didn’t.