Xavier has up-and-down week, firmly on bubble

The Musketeers knocked o Butler before losing on the road against Providence

by joe clark, sports editor
Newswire photo by Desmond Fischer
Daniel Ramsey finishes a dunk after being fouled against Butler. Ramsey played his first game all season for Xavier and contributed four points and two boards. Coach Travis Steele praised the energy he provided.

Behind double-doubles from freshman Colby Jones (13 points, 11 rebounds) and sophomore Zach Freemantle (17 points, 10 rebounds), Xavier men’s basketball snapped their two game losing streak on Sunday night, beating Butler 63-51. 

However, Xavier found themselves on the wrong side of the win column on Wednesday night, as the Musketeers’ defensive struggles reared their ugly head again, and they lost 83-68 to Providence

Against Butler, the Musketeers raced out to an early lead, as they led 16-6 with 11:49 left in the first half. 

While Xavier’s offense stagnated early, the defense contained Butler early. The Bulldogs hung around, though, and went on an 18-5 run after trailing by 10 to take a 24-21 lead after Jair Bolden scored on a second chance opportunity. Xavier struggled on the glass, allowing 17 offensive rebounds. 

After a Jones basket cut the Butler lead to 24-23, Freemantle picked up his second foul, joining Jason Carter on the bench with two. 

With Bryan Griffin unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols and Dieonte Miles battling a knee injury suffered in practice, Xavier turned to Daniel Ramsey for his first action of the season. 

Ramsey had only played three minutes in his Xavier career before Sunday, but he made his presence known against Butler. 

Ramsey followed up a Nate Johnson miss with a putback bucket before getting out in transition after a Colby Jones steal, finishing with a two-handed flush and drawing a foul off Jones’ third assist of the night. 

Ramsey would finish the night with four points and two rebounds, but his energy off the bench helped Xavier get the lead back and go into the half up 33-31. 

“I’m really happy for Daniel Ramsey,” Xavier Head Coach Travis Steele said after the game.

“Daniel’s had a long go here at Xavier with his health, and this is the longest he’s been able to practice,” Steele continued. “He was ready tonight. This was the first time he’s been able to play all year. He scored four points, gave us great energy and created some excitement amongst our team that we really, really needed at that time.” 

Xavier never trailed in the second half, largely due to Jones, who had seven of his 13 points in the second half, in addition to seven of his 11 rebounds in the half. 

Freemantle was clutch at the free throw line down the stretch and had 10 second half points of his own, six of which came at the line. Jason Carter, who has struggled at the free throw line this season, was also a perfect 2-2 at the charity stripe down the stretch. The 63-51 win moved the Musketeers to 14-4 and 5-4 in league play.

Then Wednesday, Xavier couldn’t contain Providence, as the Musketeers lost 83-65 on the road. 

Xavier never led against the Friars, as Providence jumped out to a 13-6 lead that grew to 22-10 after a three-pointer by A.J. Reeves.  

With 2:29 to go in the first half, Xavier cut the Providence lead to seven at 30-23, but Noah Horchler (20 points, nine rebounds) quickly answered with a three for Providence. 

Xavier trailed by 10 at the half, but they got out to a quick start in the second half and cut the deficit to four at 37-33 with 17:07 left to play.  

That was as close as Xavier would get the rest of the way, however, as Providence had an answer for almost every Xavier basket. 

The Providence loss was the third game out of Xavier’s last four where they allowed over 80 points. 

Xavier was missing Nate Johnson against the Friars, and his shooting was needed as the Musketeers were just 3-17 from beyond the arc.

“When you’re down a guy like Nate Johnson, who can really shoot the ball, you have to be a really good defensive team, and we gotta figure that out. We gotta make teams miss and not hope teams miss,” Steele said after the loss. 

Xavier returns to action at home on Saturday at 5 p.m. against. Creighton for Senior Night.

Xavier is currently firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and a win against Creighton would help solidify their resume, especially as the team only one Quad One win thus far, which came against Oklahoma.