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Xavier battles hard, falls to Villanova by a final score of 68-62

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The Muskies dug a hole early and never quite got out of it.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Villanova
I assume Brian O'Connell called Naji for a charge on this play.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

How many times has a team surrendered a 17-0 run on the road to a top-10 and managed a win? Probably not many, and Xavier didn't change that number today.

Xavier held an 8-4 lead at the first media timeout behind a couple of buckets from Naji and one each from Q and Tyrique. By the time the Muskies scored again 6 minutes later, it was to cut the lead to 21-10. It was the same show you've seen a million times, as Nova played five out and moved with and without the ball, whipping it around before getting the look they wanted. Of the 7 buckets they made during their 17-0 run, 6 were assisted. Xavier never looked sped up or shell shocked, they just couldn't get a stop for 6 straight minutes.

It's a shame, too, because Xavier played well enough to win - if not what you would outright call playing well - for the other 34 minutes of the game. After coughing up that run, X steadied the ship and got it down to 7 at the half thanks to holding Nova to 9 points over the last 8:40 and chipping away largely through Naji Marshall.

The second half opened well, as Xavier cut the lead to 4 and had the ball. On that trip down, Quentin Goodin drove and dished to Tyrique Jones, who laid it in, but the basket was erased because Brian O'Connell once again couldn't resist assessing a charge when a Villanova player slid in under a Muskie who was already in the air. I'm not going to dwell on it beyond this, but Xavier was on the wrong end of a home whistle all night, and Brian O'Connell in particular earned every bit of vitriol X fans are no doubt currently hurling into the night at him.

From there Nova built, eventually pushing the lead to double digits through a 5-0 Justin Moore run. Xavier answered back, though, and Naji had 6 as part of an 8-2 run to bring it back to 6 with 9 minutes to play. It went back and forth around there, with Xavier never getting it to a single possession, before back-to-back Nova threes pushed the lead to 12 with 3:52 to play.

The Muskies looked done there, but to their credit, they weren't. Tyrique hit a couple FTs and Paul Scruggs drove for a tough layup. Tyrique scored on the post and cut it to 6 with 2 to play. The teams traded empty possessions before a tactically questionable three from Naji went begging and Jermaine Samuels stuck a pull-up jumper with under a minute left. Kyky Tandy had Xavier's lone made three of the game to bring the scoreline to respectability, but once again one lull early in the game doomed a spirited fight back from Xavier.

Some takeaways...

This offense is its own worst enemy

Tyrique and Zach combined to go 8-17, only one of which was from more than 4 feet out, and the team as a whole was 16-27 on layups and dunks. Q had a couple of nice drives but turned the ball over 4 times. X only shot 11 threes, which is honestly fine, but they only made 1 of them. Xavier also turned the ball over 14 times. If the Muskies just make their easy buckets around the rim and/or protect the ball a little better, this is a completely different game. Instead, once again muted offensive output undermined a heck of an effort by the defense.

Little lapses kill

When you can't score consistently, you can't afford to blink, and X blinked hard today. Not only did they surrender that 17-0 where it looked like they were being confronted with the idea of off the ball movement for the first time, but they also allowed Villanova to rebound 12 of their 40 misses. Second chances were the lifeblood of the Wildcat attack outside of the run where they converted all their first chances. Xavier can beat very good teams, but they have to execute to do so. They didn't today.

This team doesn't quit

I would doubt Xavier's win probability was ever much over 10% for the last 15 minutes, but X dragged themselves out of tough holes time and again to make it at least vaguely interesting late. It's frustrating to watch a team so spirited consistently shoot itself in the foot, but if they can put the pieces together, they'll be tough to stop. This could have turned into the annual Villanova butt-kicking, but these guys didn't let it.