Xavier improved to 8-1 on the season with an 84-71 victory over Green Bay, but head coach Travis Steele felt that the team didn’t play connected enough.
“I thought Green Bay was the harder playing team, I thought they were the more together team, for sure,” Steele said. “Tonight, I thought we looked like a bunch of individuals … I think guys weren’t necessarily thinking about the right things on either end of the floor, and that’s gotta change.”
Naji Marshall swiftly solidified a career game against Green Bay, and he did just about everything – driving, shooting, passing. The junior forward dropped a season-best 24 points.
Xavier was forced to contend with Green Bay’s up-tempo style of offense – the kind in which the Phoenix hoisted up several quick-trigger shots early into the shot clock.
The Musketeers labored to keep up with Green Bay in a volatile opening frame that saw the lead change hands 15 times.
“We played their style of basketball for sure,” Steele said. “At the same time, good team, you put your stamp on the game … I told them this isn’t tennis. It’s not my serve, your serve. We have to get stops – that’s who we are, be who we are. Every possession for 40 minutes.”
Xavier appeared to snap out of its early funk to close the half. A two-handed dunk off an inbounds play and a three-pointer on the next possession by Marshall helped spark a 9-0 run.
Marshall’s 12 first-half points was accompanied by junior guard Paul Scruggs, who excelled at getting to the hoop. He contributed 9 first-half points and the Musketeers led by three at the break.
Freshman guard KyKy Tandy, who made his Xavier debut last weekend against Lipscomb, was taken off the court with an apparent injury to the face after making a lay up in the second half. He had 10 points.
After the game, Steele confirmed that Tandy had to be tended to with stitches because his tooth protruded through his lip. He expects Tandy to be available to play on Saturday.
A definite positive for Xavier was the play of senior forward Tyrique Jones, who ripped down eight offensive boards and 14 total rebounds.
Steele has voiced confidence Tyrique Jones’s ability to be a dominant force on the glass, and Jones showed how his presence in the paint can impact the offense.
“I thought Tyrique started doing a little bit better there in the second half,” Steele said about Jones. “I thought Tyrique started to get a little rhythm out there and thought he played a lot better in the second half, so we went with him – the older guy.”
The Musketeers have a few days to recoup before their showdown at home with rival Cincinnati at the Crosstown Shootout on Saturday.