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Xavier overcomes themselves, and EKU, in an ugly win

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Survive and advance, I guess?

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Kentucky at Xavier Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The temptation to just copy in a game report from the start (or end) of last season here was tempting. Xavier shot the ball badly. Xavier turned the ball over way too much. Xavier had serious defensive lapses (most notably Zach Freemantle falling asleep during EKU’s last possession). The same things that have plagued Xavier for the last two years, for the Travis Steele Era, plagued them again last night. It was an extremely vexing victory.

But it was a victory. That was in large part to Jason Carter (20/11/4) and his ability to get buckets off the dribble late. Two strong left handed finishes in the last two minutes of regulation came when the rest of Xavier’s team was decompensating in the face of EKU’s constant press and, frankly, constant fouling. Carter was calm and collected at all times. Because of that incessant pressure, Xavier got themselves sped up. Because they were sped up, they turned the ball over an appalling amount of the time.

Dwon Odom (6/7/5) looked less like an answer an point guard and more like the reason the question was being asked coming into this season. Forgive him, though, he’s never faced pressure and speed like this before. And my Lord can he jump. Just ask Cooper Robb. Paul Scruggs (9/3/4) has, though, and he handled it no better. Odom turned the ball over six times, Scruggs chipped in four of his own. Four more from Nate Johnson (18/5/2) and three from Kyky Tandy (18/3/1) meant that none of Xavier’s backcourt covered themselves in glory.

One thing saved Xavier tonight though. This new Musketeers team can score the ball. Zach Freemantle (24/13/1), Tandy, Carter, and Johnson were all in double figures. When the Colonels just kept throwing it in and hack-pressing their way back into it, Xavier somehow always found an answer. The ball didn’t stick, no one went hero ball, offensive rebounds didn’t become the main source of scoring plays. It wasn’t always pretty, but in an overtime game, it matters. Nate Johnson hit two huge threes, Jason Carter scored again, and Kyky Tandy trusted himself to knock down the clinching free throws.

Sometimes a win is a win. Sometimes it is a referendum. This wasn’t fully the second option, but it was a warning shot to the Musketeers. Shooting 31% from deep with 25 turnovers will get them obliterated against Seton Hall or Villanova. Allowing Providence to get up 91 shots is asking to lose by 30. That isn’t the case against EKU. There’s a reason callow teams start with easy games. Onward and upward for the undefeated Musketeers.