There was a moment at which this one looked like Xavier was going to execute crisply and walk away with this one. After a choppy start had the game tied at 5-5, Tyrique hit a couple FTs, Kyky hit a couple threes, and a Zach Freemantle jumper had X up 10 and looking solid.
Then the turnovers hit. From up 23-13, the Muskies had 9 straight empty possessions, 5 of which ended in turnovers. Georgetown reeled it down to a single possession until a timely three from Naji gave X a little breathing space. After scoring 23 in the first 10:10, Xavier scored just 5 points in the final 9:50 of the first half. During those 9+ minutes, Xavier turned the ball over 7 times and shot 2-12/1-5/0-1. The defense held tight enough, but the Muskies allowed a game that could have been a runaway to be a battle.
In the second half, the two stories that mattered were Tyrique Jones and the refs. The officials called a foul a minute in the second, taking a game that was already pretty poorly executed and robbing it of any rhythm it could have possibly established. Actions in the lane devolved into fistfights, only for touch fouls to get called 30 feet out. Any drive had a coin toss chance of turning into a charge. Xavier wasn't the victim of home cooking; the officials were just bad.
Tyrique - himself the victim of a celebration-related technical - took over the second half. After heading into the locker room with 2 and 6 on 0-5 from the floor, he ran riot for 16 and 7 on 8-9 shooting in the second. Surrounded by an energentic Georgetown defense, he somehow managed to not draw a foul in the second half, but he put the team on his considerable shoulders any time they could keep the ball long enough to get it in to him.
Despite Tyrique's efforts, Georgetown's pressure forced Xavier into a season-high 23 turnovers and allowed the Hoyas to creep back into the game. They completed the comeback when Jahvon Blair stuck a three to tie the game at 61. Naji drew a foul and rolled in a couple of FTs, but Georgetown answered with a tip to tie the game.
With 17 seconds left and 2 timeouts in his pocket, Coach Steele left the ball in Naji's hands. Naji didn't disappoint. He dribbled his man in from the right channel, stepped back and got his feet under him, and drilled a long three for the game's final points.
In a game that Xavier simply had to win, they have done, but only just. Against a team that saw most of its starting lineup leave around the turn of the calendar and had two remaining stars out through injury, Xavier made this one tougher than it had to be. The ball security problems were exacerbated by a charge-happy officiating squad, but the Muskies still had too many unforced miscues. The time for style points has passed, though, and the bottom line is that Xavier added a vital Q1 win to the resume today.