Coming in to today’s game, Seton Hall’s massive front line was known for two things: blocking shots and making life difficult for their opponents on the glass. The story of this one, then, has to be Xavier’s Senior talisman Tyrique Jones making a spectacle of dismantling the bigger players, with his mom watching on no less, and leading Xavier to a crucial victory at the Prudential Center where Seton Hall last lost by double digits on February 18, 2017. The Connecticut native posted a line of 19/18/1 , grabbed 6 offensive rebounds to Seton Hall’s 5 as a team, and blocked 4 shots, which also outpaced the Pirates’ combined contribution by one. In a game that could be the turnaround in Xavier’s season, Jones was the man of the hour and no one in the arena had any doubts of that by the end.
This one started innocuously enough with Quincy McKnight, who would leave the game unable to put any weight on his left leg after a nasty fall in the second half, opening the scoring for the Pirates. From there, Xavier would ride a harrying defensive effort and a dominant performance on the glass to the next 18 points and, eventually, a 30-4 run, from which the Pirates never fully recovered. On display was Xavier’s full potential as a team with the attack balanced and decisive and the defense stingy on second chances and aggressive in keeping Seton Hall out of the lane. During the game’s decisive run, Xavier would grab as many offensive rebounds in 12 minutes as Seton Hall did all day.
The Pirates finished the half on a high to cut the lead to 12, but Xavier showed the same toughness that has brought them back into so many games this season in holding off Seton Hall in the second half. Repeatedly, Seton Hall would whittle the lead down to 8 or 9 and Xavier would push it back out to 12 or 14. The decisive run of the game came when Seton Hall had cut the lead to 7 with Sandro Mamukelashvili at the line to cut it to two possessions for the first time since it was 7-2 less than 4 minutes into the game. He missed the free throw, Tyrique Jones got a stick back on Xavier’s ensuing possession, and the excellent Kyky Tandy (14/1/0) scored 5 straight for Xavier to push the lead back to 14 and effectively end Seton Hall’s resistance.
Xavier still struggled at the line, shooting 9 of 20, still turned the ball over 18 times and only forced 6, and only assisted 8 of their 30 makes, but Jones, Naji Marshall (19/10/4), and Jason Carter (6/7/3) so thoroughly dominated Seton Hall on the boards that it simply did not matter. Xavier, warts and all, got a massive win and may just be back in business.