When Brian Thornton went down, the 2006 Xavier squad looked dead and buried. When Dedrick Finn stole a puppy (literally) it seemed like their fate was sealed. There are ways to become a Xavier icon though, and in last night’s play-in game, Stanley Burrell rose to the occasion. Lacking their leading scorer and their point guard, the team turned to a man who could do it both.
There’s not much difference between an NCAA #14 seed and an NIT #1 seed and that was evident from the tip in this one. After the 2006 squad jumped to a 12-4 lead, the 2019 boys battled back. Zach Hankins (12/8/2) and Naji Marshall (12/11/3) scored nine of X’s first 11 to get back into the game. Just a soon as they were back in it, though, the 2006 squad hit them with a 16-5 run cued by two BJ Raymond (9/1/3) jumpers. The game seesawed a bit, but Sean Miller’s team took a nine point lead into the half.
The lead grew to 17 in the second half when a Burrell three followed back to back charges from Paul Scruggs (7/2/2). Those two did for Scruggs, who was done for the game with 13:26 to play. That should have been all she wrote for the 2019 team, but they showed the tenacity that nearly dragged them into the NCAA tournament to come clawing back into the game.
Down 18 with 4:28 to play, Travis Steele’s first time sprang to life. Tyrique Jones (21/10/3) ripped off nine straight as the 2006 team couldn’t find an answer. A late three from Elias Harden (6/2/0) cut the lead all the way down to six but there just wasn’t time for the furious charge to make up all the ground. The final score of 80-74 fairly encapsulated a game in which the 2006 squads lack of depth very nearly came back to haunt them.
This game was about Stanley Burrell (29/2/6) though. The Justin’s may be a year older than Burrell, but they deferred to him as he got hot in this make or break game. In the opening run that ultimately put the game just out of reach, Stan was unguardable. He had 15 by the time the 2019 boys had 18 and he’d thrown in two assists already just for fun. At the half Burrell had 20 and was a whirling, fist pumping, bundle of energy. That he had nine in the second half seems like a letdown only because he’d played one of the best halves in Xavier’s postseason history right before it.
Stan finished the game 9-19 from the floor and 5-8 from deep. The 2006 Musketeers rode that to a blistering 11-18 from deep, with even Johnny Wolf (8/2/2) getting in on the act. On the other end Burrell harried Naji Marshall into a 5-14 shooting performance as the 2019 squad simply couldn’t get into their offense enough to get it going. They shot 48.4% from the floor but, in what is becoming something of a struggling Steele team, turned it over on 23.6% of their possessions.
Burrell and the 2006 team now advance to face one of the best teams in Xavier history, the #2 seed 2008 squad. It will be a big ask for them, but with Stanley firing like this, anything can happen.