Naji Marshall’s clutch 3-pointer with four seconds left lifts Xavier to 66-63 win
The signature moments keep piling on for Naji Marshall.
The junior forward and Musketeers’ leading scorer vaulted Xavier over Georgetown last Sunday on the road on a game-winning 3-pointer with just four ticks left in regulation.
Marshall baited a Hoyas’ defender, feigning like he was going to drive before gaining separation with a step back as he watched the high-arching shot rip through the net.
“He’s worked really hard on (his jump shot) to find that consistency,” head coach Travis Steele said about Marshall, who was named the Big East Player of the Week. “Naji’s always been a young man who’s better at going to the rim but if you have to play him honest, it makes that that going to the rim that much harder to guard.”
Even with timeouts as his disposal, Steele put his full trust in Marshall with the ball in his hands.
“The ball was in his hands,” Steele said. “I’m gonna ride and die with Naji. (He’s) a big time player, he’s ready for that moment and he knocked it in. I was comfortable where the ball was.”
Leading by three points following Marshall’s shot, Steele opted to defend Georgetown in the half court rather than sending the Hoyas to the free throw line while they were in the bonus.
The move, as risky as it might have been, was merited by Steele’s intuition and foresight.
“We’ve practiced both being in that situation,” Steele said. “Number one, Georgetown’s big. I was little bit concerned blocking them out on a free throw. They have 7-foot guys, we have 6-foot-8 guys.”
Steele consulted with the two seniors on the team, Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin, who both elected to get a defensive stop when it was needed most.
Rebounding in the second half
Jones had difficulty establishing a rhythm in the paint in a game that featured several loose balls, scrums and an abundance of foul calls.
Steele mentioned he was pleased with Jones’ second-half performance saying “Tyrique really rebounded in the second half. I didn’t think he played very well in the first half — he played very frustrated … He got it going in the second half for us. I think when he’s going he’s the heart and soul of our team. I think he’s the best big man in the Big East (and) he’s gotta be like that all the time for us to be good.”
Not only did Jones assert his presence in the second half but the forwards as a unit owned the rebounding battle, particularly on the offensive glass.
“We’ve got a really big team across the board,” Steele said. “That’s an area of strength for us. Our guys attack the glass. We’ve become one of the better rebounding teams in our league, and we rely on that.”
Selection Sunday looms
The Musketeers’ victory against Georgetown was a big one because road wins have the ability to count more for a tournament resume than home wins, especially in the Quad 1 variety.
The key to a run at a tournament may chock down to experience. Xavier’s equipped with as all but one starter is an upperclassman.
“To win in March, you gotta rely on older guys,” Steele said. “You go as your older guys go and I thought Tyrique and Naji did a tremendous job for us down the stretch.”
Xavier currently sits at 19 wins with two games left in the regular season with an away matchup with Providence tonight before the home finale Saturday night against Butler.