Since losing Zach Freemantle Xavier has played 4 games decided by one possession and 2 decided by 14 or more points. With a trip to whatever they’re calling The Dunk now looming, Xavier could have used one of the latter tonight. Six minutes in, it looked like another nail biter was inevitable with the teams locked at 7-7, but Xavier ripped off a 33-14 spurt the rest of the way in the first frame and, other than a wobble to begin the second half, thoroughly dominated a team hoping to make their own move off the bubble as tournament time approaches.
Souley Boum’s ankle looked good tonight
Since getting hobbled at Hinkle, Boum had been sporadically effective while also struggling in some high pressure spots. Tonight he absolutely annihilated everyone Seton Hall sent at him on his way to 23/4/3 without turning the ball over. For this team to get where they want to go, they need Souley fit and firing and he showed just how big of a difference he can make tonight. A bit of late drama gave Donny Marshall a chance to soliloquize about how things were done in his day and paint Boum in the wrong for playing basketball during a basketball game, but don’t let that distract you from another vintage performance from #0.
Jerome Hunter is here to feast on the bones of lesser men
With Jack Nunge having a somewhat limited impact tonight, it fell to Xavier’s glue guy to pick up a bit more of the slack in the paint and he responded with 12/9/2 with 5 of his rebounds coming at the offensive end. He did turn the ball over 4 times and got stuck with a technical foul, but he was everything Xavier needed him to be tonight, blocking three shots and making a point of showing how uncowed he was by KC Ndefo (hence the technical).
This team showed their toughness again tonight
Coming off 3 losses in their last 4 by a total of 4 points and down to a rotation of 7, Xavier saw Colby Jones limited to 9 minutes in the first half by foul trouble, Adam Kunkel sustain a hit to the face that left him bruised, Jones limp off down the tunnel after appearing to injure his lower back, the opposition go on a 12-1 to cut a 19 point halftime lead down to 8, and members of the crowd attempt to pick a fight with every member of the coaching staff. Despite all of that, this team bounced back from two double digit runs in the second half alone to win this one by a margin that apparently made shooting the basketball a grave offense. X needed to grab back some momentum heading to Providence and had a shot at a Q1 win here to burnish the resume. It was work at times, but this crew continues to dig deep and tonight they got the job done emphatically.
The bench, such as it is, was ready to battle
Xavier got 42 minutes from their reserves tonight with 40 of those coming from Desmond Claude and Cesare Edwards. Neither of them put up a shooting line that is going to make you think that somehow Xavier got Dennis Scott on scholarship, but they were all about the little things. Claude dished out 4 assists to 1 turnover and ended more Seton Hall possessions than any other Musketeer with his 6 defensive rebounds to go with a couple of steals. Edwards was called on early and often in the post battle and was the perpetrator of the first half’s most thunderous dunk on his way to 5 and 5. He also was at least willing to get in to the mix on the defensive end, accumulating 4 fouls in 18 minutes and helping keep Seton Hall’s front line of Ndefo and Samuel to a combined line of 10/5/2 in 42 minutes.
That was a Q1 zipping up on the road
If you don’t want your opponent shooting threes when they are up 22, try simply not losing by 22.