Just two days after the double-overtime thriller, the Muskies were set to play the Florida Gators. The Gators came into the season with high expectations but hadn’t done much and had lost at Connecticut already. To say X stumbled out of the gate would be an understatement, they were steamed garbage for a large portion of this game. This was due to some seemingly heavy legs and the fact that X couldn’t complete a pass without turning it over. X trailed by 17 just 5 minutes into the second half but came storming back and fell just short in the end, losing by 5.
A couple of buy games were brushed aside before X hosted the Shootout and looked to redeem the poor showing from the previous year. The game stayed pretty close in the first half with X only leading by 3 at the break. The Muskies pulled it together and stomped UC in the second half. Naji Marshall led the way with 31 points despite having “lockdown defender” Jarron Cumberland on him. The highlight of the game came when Q denied a high ball screen, drove into the lane, and punched it on all of UC. In the end, X coasted away from the school across town.
Following the shootout win was a trip to Wake Forest where, despite 30 from Paul Scruggs, X lost by 2 in another late comeback attempt. X returned home and easily beat Western Carolina behind 25 from Q and 16 from Carter. The final non-con game was a road win over TCU where X smothered the opposition and KyKy Tandy, who made his debut against Lipscomb, hit 8 points on just 4 shots. A relatively easy non-con schedule had X sitting at 11-2 going into Big East play.
A Bump in the Road
Conference play started out at the worst possible place, Villanova. The game started well enough but after a quiet start Nova got rolling and took a comfortable lead. The game wasn’t in much doubt until a Tandy 3, Xavier’s only one of the game, cut it to a one possession game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and X fell just short. X righted the ship by dispatching St. John’s at home behind a barrage of Tandy 3s and a surprise appearance from Dontarius James.
The second part of this three game home stretch was a visit from Seton Hall. Once again, X had a hole to dig themselves out of as they trailed by 16 with only 9 minutes to play. Yet another late comeback fell short and the Pirates left with the W. The final game of the home spell was against Creighton. The story of this game was the absolutely shocking 5-26 X shot from 3 on their way to another loss. Rounding out the three game skid was a trip to Marquette that no one wants to talk about.
X bounced back with a good win over Georgetown in which both Marshall and Tandy went for 18. The good times didn’t last though as a trip to Creighton bore a somewhat inevitable outcome. X then hosted Marquette only 2 weeks after getting run off the floor by them. After a rough first half, X began to make up some ground. Their chances only increased when Markus Howard was sidelined after catching an elbow to the face. With 9 to play, X had completely turned things around and grabbed an 8 point lead. It didn’t last of course and befrore anyone knew it, X was down 3 with 9 seconds left. Once again, Naji hit a deep 3 off of the pitchback to force OT. Overtime lacked any real excitement and the score remained tied going into the second overtime. X had their chances in the second overtime, but could never close the game out and Marquette came away victors. The story of this one wasn’t any one moment, but the apalling 11-25 that the Musketeers shot from the line. Multiple chances to kill this game off had passed them by and now they were sitting at 13-8 and 2-6 in the Big East with a roadtrip to Seton Hall waiting for them.