After racking up 101 points in their season opener and only 51 in the win over Bradley on Thanksgiving one could be tempted to wonder which of those offensive performances Xavier fans could come to expect going forward. The answer, on today’s evidence, is probably a mix of the two. Zach Freemantle’s (9/4/0) frequent run ins with the officials limited his ability to contribute for Xavier, but a jack of all trades masterclass from Paul Scruggs (15/6/7) was supported by explosive cameos from the steady handed Dwon Odom (8/5/6) and a complete offensive showing from Kyky Tandy (24/3/3) to power Xavier past Toledo.
Xavier needed all of them as the Rockets came out hoping to atone for their last second loss to Bradley and run their record to 2-1 and immediately took advantage of some sloppiness from the hosts, leading 10-2 and having Freemantle pick up two personal fouls before the first media timeout. Freemantle would come back in a Coach Steele sought to ride his budding star, but a technical foul assessed during a verbal altercation meant he picked up his third foul with 13:36 left on the clock and Toledo soon pushed the lead out to the largest either team would hold all day at 20-8.
Xavier would right the ship in the final 10 minutes of the half, using an 8-0 run to cut the lead to one and receiving solid bench minutes from Bryan Griffin (8/4/0) and getting a major boost on the glass from Jason Carter (5/13/0) in the absence of Freemantle. Toledo kept coming back with flurry after flurry, but Tandy and Scruggs kept Xavier buoyant and within four heading into the break.
An old fashioned three point play to open the second half seemed to signal the return of Zach Freemantle to his dominant form of the first two contests, but it was Toledo’s Setric Millner who helped his team grab the advantage early in the second frame and pushed the Rockets lead back out to eight. Xavier responded with back to back threes from Tandy and Nate Johnson (5/2/0) and a breakaway dunk by Freemantle had the lead back down to one when he was seemingly assessed his second technical foul of the afternoon for slapping the backboard. In same strange delineation between magnitudes of technical fouls, Freemantle was not disqualified from the game, but did have four fouls and had just put Toledo back at the line. I don’t know either. Anyway, Jason Carter hit a three immediately afterwards to give Xavier their first lead of the game.
From the 12:19 mark until just over a minute to play, neither team was able to lead by more than a posession as Tandy, Scruggs, and Odom proceeded to score Xavier’s next 22 points and help hold Toledo to 4-15 from the floor with 4 turnovers during the 11 minute stretch that would leave the game all but decided. All three made huge plays down the stretch. Scruggs was all patience and his unique brand of practiced, almost balletic footwork in working himself free for his arsenal of floaters. Odom could not be sped up and induced into making rash decisions like he had been against Bradley, instead denying Toledo star Marreon Jackson with a resounding block with just over 3 minutes left. When Tandy wasn’t cashing out from beyond the arc, he was attacking the hoop to keep the defense honest and knocking down clutch free throws.
While this was not a game that will likely live long in the memory banks because of an overpowering Xavier performance, it may have just been a harbinger of the three headed attack the Musketeers backcourt can boast this season when teams try to take away the inside. It was not a particularly satisfying win, but Xavier did find a way to make the plays they needed to grab the victory and that certainly beats the alternative.