Xavier won a game they should win, wandering past an energetic Green Bay squad. That's honestly about where it ends tonight.
The Muskies came out fast, going up 7-2 early behind the usual suspects, and for a moment you thought it would be done and dusted from there and end with the starters laughing together on the end of the bench while the walk-ons got some run.
Instead, it settled into the rhythm the game would have the rest of the night, as Green Bay answered with a 19-10 run to go up 21-17. Apparently rattled by the prospect of actually losing rather than just putting together an uninspiring win, Xavier responded with a 21-9 run to hold a 38-30 lead with 2 and change left in the half.
This, I think, is where the game was told. You would have liked to see a mature performance by Xavier to push the lead to double digits into the half, laying the groundwork for walking away from the Phoenix in the second half. Instead Xavier went 0-3 with missed threes by Jason Carter and Quentin Goodin, Green Bay scored 5, and the Muskies hit the half leading by a single bucket.
The second half went the same way. Xavier pushed the lead to 10 early on, then went 9 straight trips down the court without making a field goal - their only point coming from a lone Naji Marshall free throw. Then Xavier pushed it to 14 with 11 minutes left before coughing up a 7-0 run. Time and again Xavier would push the lead out and then let off the gas, allowing Green Bay to cut it back to single digits before waking the Muskies up again. By the time the game ended, it was clear Xavier was the better team on the floor, but this was far from the Muskies at their best.
Coach Steele is still toying with lineups
You'd hope anyone on Xavier could pull the Muskies past Green Bay, but part of the struggles the team had was Steele running out weird lineups to see who could play together. Dontarius James got a lot of run, Zach Freemantle was big early and then absent late, Jason Carter played the five, Scruggs, Goodin, and Tandy played together... Steele mentioned wanting to find groups of guys who could work together, and he was working it out on the fly tonight.
Someone needs to make a jumper
Jason Carter was 0-6 from three, and I don't remember any of them being particularly contested. The team on the whole was just 8-33 (24.2%) from beyond the arc, and the Phoenix were super content to stand there and watch them chuck. Because of that, Tyrique only got 5 field goal attempts as there were usually three or four defenders sagging around him. Jones was good 14 and 14, but he mostly had to get it on his own with 8 offensive boards. Xavier can't play through the post without being able to spread the floor a bit, and they have to make teams respect them from beyond the arc to accomplish that.
This is still a work in progress
Coach Steele said pregame that he wasn't happy with where the team was at 7-1, and I can't imagine he's more content after tonight's game. He wants to see a solid 40 minutes, but instead he got about 26 spread out through the game as Xavier appeared to know they didn't need their 100% to win it. The coach will have plenty to talk about heading into Saturday.