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Xavier 74-61 Western Carolina: Three Takeaways

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X had to put together a strong final 10 minutes to hold off the Catamounts.

NCAA Basketball: Western Carolina at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier returned to winning ways after dropping a tough one to Wake Forest, but you can be forgiven for not ordering your 2020 National Champions shirt just yet. It took an 18-2 run in the middle of the second half for X to overcome a team that figures to be in the middle of the pack in the SoCon this season. Without Naji Marshall and with Paul Scruggs and Tyrique Jones having limited effectiveness in scoring the ball, Xavier had to battle some adversity tonight, but overcame it to move to 10-2.

Xavier’s tertiary options stepped up tonight

If you have watched a Xavier game this year, you know that the goal of Xavier’s offense is usually to have one of Tyrique Jones, Naji Marshall, or Paul Scruggs shoot the ball. All three of those players average in double figures, and typically if Xavier is going to win, at least one of them is going to need to get going. Tonight, none of them did. Marshall was ruled out through illness, Scruggs had his worst statistical night of the season, and Jones equaled his season low of 6 points. With 4 guys who average 43 points a game chipping in just 15, Xavier’s other players bore the burden well as Quentin Goodin, Jason Carter, and Zach Freemantle combined for 54 of Xavier’s 74 points and won the game for the Musketeers. Goodin in particular turned in one of his best games for Xavier, ending with 25/1/3 and knocking down all 4 of his threes. The contribution of these three guys is going to be major for X in conference play, and tonight was a reassuring sign that they can get it done when called upon.

It is understandable to worry about Tyrique’s shooting

After tonight’s 2-7, Tyrique Jones is now shooting .496 from the floor, which is a full 10% below his career low. Perhaps more distressingly, he is just over 40% on shots that are not dunks. With one high major now separating X from conference play, the time to be figuring things out is over, so Xavier needs their big man to start putting the ball in the hoop at a more consistent rate immediately or risk irreparable damage to the season while he figures it out.

It is not understandable to not the the value in Tyrique being on the floor

While his scoring touch has seemed to abandon him for much of this season, Jones is doing pretty much everything else at a really high level right now. Rebounding? Only two players in the nation can boast a better offensive rebounding rate and Jones is also Xavier’s best defensive rebounder by some margin. Defense? According to Sports Reference’s DRTG, Jones is the best defender on the team and also is behind on Zach Freemantle in block %. He even showed his range of distribution tonight, dishing out 6 assists to only 2 turovers. Simply put, even with his scoring struggles, Jones remains an integral part of what Xavier does at both ends of the floor and by and large the team is better for him being out there.