Scruggs scores 12 points late in the game, Carter records first double-double
By Luke Feliciano | Sports Editor
Facing its first true test of the season, Xavier was in for a much different contest than its previous two games on Tuesday night.
Turnovers were plentiful on both sides, but the battle under pressure is the kind of affair that defines a team’s character.
Xavier showed its grit in a 63-58 grind-it-out victory against Missouri at Cintas Center.
“That’s what we call a rock fight,” head coach Travis Steele said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. It was going to be ugly at times, but I was really proud of our guys for handling the adversity that we went through in the game.”
From the onset of game, the Xavier looked in sync offensively and disrupted Missouri on the defensive end.
However, it needed to kickstart its offense to open the second half after going into the break on a 28-21 lead, and it couldn’t find the bottom of the net from deep.
The Musketeers had another tough shooting night from beyond the arc (3-21), but Steele voiced confidence in the team’s ability to shoot from long range.
“We had some wide open looks,” he said. “We will take those shots. I told our guys to step in, shoot them with confidence after the ball has been reversed … I thought for the most part without watching film that we had a lot of good looks.”
A 14-0 run in a nearly seven-minute span allowed Missouri to take its first lead since early in the first half. On the flip side of the coin, Xavier was in the midst of a scoring drought and missed 10 straight shots.
Trailing by three points with less than two minutes to go, the Musketeers were forced to mount a late comeback. A layup by junior guard Paul Scruggs brought Xavier to within one point of the lead with 1:23, and Missouri took a timeout.
In a tight game, forcing fouls and converting free throws remained paramount. Scruggs knocked down both ends of a one-and-one to get the Musketeers within a basket of the lead and junior forward Naji Marshall answered to tie the game on the ensuing possession by drilling a triple. It was just Xavier’s third 3-pointer made in the game.
Missouri’s last ditch attempt to win the game at the buzzer failed, and the game went to overtime.
Junior forward Jason Carter, who saw extended minutes, had 12 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
Scruggs, who didn’t score at all in the first half, put the team on his back in in the game’s late stages. His 12 points factored in greatly in the second half and overtime.
The Musketeers aided themselves by getting to the free throw line. They took 17 free throws between the second half and overtime and made 11 of them.
Xavier led by four with one minute left to a victory and a pair of free throws by senior guard Quentin Goodin helped secure the win.
Still in the early part of the season, Xavier isn’t trying to dwell on one game because it’s a long season.
“The season is a marathon,” Steele said. “How you look right now can be totally different how you are at the end of the season … It’s all about just getting better every single day. Continue to add to our defensive system, add to our offensive system (and) trying to figure out your team a little bit as well.”
The Musketeers have a home game against Missouri State before the Charleston Classic – a tournament that will feature a solid crop of competition.