Shot blocked, layup surrendered, ball turned over. The first three possessions of the game looked a lot like the last three games for the Muskies. Well, not entirely.
First, Quentin Goodin didn't start, replaced in the lineup by Zach Freemantle in his first collegiate appearance that didn't come off the bench. Second, the skid was quickly reversed.
After going down 4-2 with 18:04 left in the half, Xavier went on an 11-minute tear that put the game into a stranglehold from which it would never emerge. It started innocently enough, with Jason Carter (11/10/1) scoring from the post and Naji Marshall (18/3/5) knocking down a three. Then Jason Carter scored again as the stops kept piling up. Tyrique Jones (10/13/2) slipped a screen and dunked all over Mac McClung. Carter - taking advantage of a post mismatch thanks to Xavier’s big lineup - got a couple more buckets and Georgetown could only answer from the line.
By the time the dust settled in the form of a Paul Scruggs (5/3/5) three, Xavier had reeled off a 24-4 run over the course of 11 minutes and had planted themselves firmly in the driver’s seat of the game.
Georgetown chipped away, mostly through Mac McClung. The Hoyas had cut it back to 9 and had a chance to take it into the half at single digits, but a big three from Kyky Tandy (18/6/1) made it 12 and helped deny the Hoyas a vital mental boost.
Out of the half, Omer Yurtseven slipped a screen and got a clean run to the rim, but Paul Scruggs recovered to block his dunk from behind. On the other end, Tyrique Jones threw one down hard. Mac McClung got the corner the next time down, but he also couldn’t climb Mt. Scruggs at the rim. Xavier’s offense sputtered a bit in the early going, but the defense held firm.
On the game, X allowed 57 points on 21-57/4-18/11-15 shooting and forced 11 turnovers. This from a team that came into the game in the top 20 nationally in offensive efficiency. The last time Georgetown finished a regular season game under 60 was in November. Of 2018.
The story of the second half was an incandescent Kyky Tandy. He looked every bit like the electric bench scorer Xavier fans were hoping for all season, shooting 7-13/4-8/0-2 and finding shots without hunting them. Georgetown simply didn’t have an answer for him and - in a game in which Paul Scruggs shot just 2-15 - he was exactly what Xavier needed.
The other big factor tonight was rebounding. Xavier posted DReb%/OReb% of 82.1%/34.0%, dominating the Hoyas on the glass. Tyrique Jones was in some kind of mood, but Jason Carter posted a double-double, Zach Freemantle chipped in 7 boards, and Kyky grabbed 6 as it was a total team effort on the glass.
There are still some questions, as one win does not a season make. Quentin Goodin didn’t play tonight; it will be interesting to see his role going forward. Bryce Moore is still looking for that first Big East point. We probably won’t get 18 from Kyky every night, though it might not be unreasonable to hope for more than a combined 23 on 28 shots from him and Paul. When Georgetown pressed, X looked a little ragged. And that 8-15 from the line...
But for now, Xavier got the win it needed. Saturday it will travel to Creighton looking to build on this performance. The defense kick-started a run last year; let’s hope the team can pull the same trick two seasons in a row.