Senior forward Tyrique Jones has been a catalyst on the court (95 rebounds in the last six games), but his infectious presence has reverberated through the locker room in more ways than one.
Jones introduced the team to the concept of being “unbreakable” after the team’s double overtime loss to Marquette. The bend but don’t break mentality was in full force last Saturday when the Musketeers moved their winning streak to three games with a 64-58 victory at home over Providence.
“Never get too high in the moment, never get too low in the moment,” Jones said. “Just stay in the moment.”
The Musketeers want to remain “unbreakable” as they enter the latter part of the Big East gauntlet.
Junior guard Paul Scruggs aided in the comeback victory with eight second-half points.
The Musketeers trailed by two points heading into the break, but they recouped in the second half. Scruggs played a role in the feat, as he helped seal the win at the free throw line late in the game.
“We just (took) every possession serious,” Scruggs said. “Like (Tyrique) said, unbreakable. Nothing can break our bond out there on the court. So, we go out there with a mindset that they can’t. That’s what we do — we execute.”
Scruggs left zero doubt that the Musketeers were going to come out on top against the Friars.
“That was the expectation and never quit. Just keep fighting,” he said. “The person who wins the most wars wins the game.”
Jones continues to shine
Jones has been a force in the interior for the Musketeers in their recent success.
It’s clear that his play has been instrumental to Xavier’s ascent through the Big East ranks.
His team-best 14 points to go along with 18 rebounds provided Jones with his sixth straight game with a double-double.
“The numbers speaks for itself, that’s all I got to say,” Scruggs said about Jones’ recent play. “It means a lot. He’s the spark. He gets us going. When we see Tyrique like that, then we already know that the train is on the railroad track, ready to go.”
Steele offered his own thoughts after the game, echoing Scruggs sentiments.
“He’s been phenomenal. He’s been on an incredible tear here lately,” head coach Travis Steele said. “He’s rebounded the ball as well as anybody in the entire country. It really changes our team around the rim defensively and on the rim with his toughness.”
Taking care of the rock
Xavier did a superb job taking care of the basketball last Saturday.
Despite having to deal with the Friars’ press and constant switching between a man-to-man and zone defenses, the Musketeers only committed eight turnovers.
“I thought our guys were strong with the ball for the most part,“ Steele said. “(They) looked before they passed. Our press offense was better … we gotta be aggressive in our press offense.”
Overcoming adversity this season
The Musketeers have endured their fair share of struggles throughout the year, but all the pieces are beginning to fall into place as they make a run for a postseason bid.
“I thought our guys really competed,” Steele said. “We got hit with some adversity throughout the game (when) they went on a 10-0 run there during that first half stretch.”
Overcoming its first-half deficit, however small, speaks volumes about the team’s dynamic nature. Xavier’s rhythm, substitutions included, may have been altered because of the extended minutes in the first half without a stoppage.
“We can handle a little adversity,” Steele said. “I thought our guys responded — I could hear our guys’ voices in the huddles, could hear our guys’ voices on the floor as well, defensively, even when things weren’t going well for us on the offensive end. (This will) put us in good position to win games.”