by luke, servello, guest writer
Facing off against Creighton, the No. 13 team in the nation at home on Senior Day was a daunting task for Xavier, but was also a tremendous opportunity to inch closer to securing an at-large NCAA tournament bid. The Musketeers capitalized on this opportunity in a big way, beating Creighton 77-69.
Make no mistake about it, this was Xavier’s best win of the season, in the most important time of the year.
Senior guard Paul Scruggs, playing in his last game at Cintas Center, turned in a monster performance.
Scruggs tallied 23 points to go with seven boards and five assists. Scruggs, who’s known to be the heart and soul of this team, went out with a bang.
Xavier Head Coach Travis Steele had this to say after the game about the senior guard: “You could just tell he wasn’t gonna let our team lose today.”
Scruggs balled out— there’s no doubt about that. But he also got the help needed to beat a high-powered team like Creighton.
Sophomore forward Zach Freemantle turned in a 17 point, 10 rebound performance. Freshman Dwon Odom was also very steady. He set up the Musketeers offense, finishing with 12 points and only one turnover.
All in all, the game was a great resume-boosting win for Xavier.
However, it was one step forward, two steps backward for Xavier.
Coming off a huge win on Senior Day against Creighton, Xavier suffered a setback at the hands of the Georgetown Hoyas on Tuesday.
It started with an absolutely disastrous first half that saw Xavier score just 23 points.
Georgetown grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the half, helping lead them to a 38-23 at the break.
“I just didn’t think our effort was there in the first half and that’s just mind boggling to me,” Steele said.
Despite this, Xavier wouldn’t go away. Led mainly by sparkplugs Adam Kunkel and KyKy Tandy, Xavier slowly inched back in the game in the second half, cutting the Hoyas’ lead down to four with 37 seconds left.
But after a few missed shots and a couple Georgetown free throws to ice it, Xavier fell 72-66.
This loss brings Xavier closer to being left out of the field of 68 on Selection Sunday.
There were positives coming out of the Georgetown game, however.
Xavier made their run with primarily three freshmen and two sophomores in the game.
Xavier’s young guns took charge, providing a lot of hope for the future of Xavier basketball.
There’s work to be done if this team wants to go dancing. They close out their regular season on Saturday at 9 p.m. when they square off with Marquette.
Currently, the Musketeers are still in the NCAA Tournament field in brackets posted on Bracketville and ESPN.
If the Musketeers make the tournament, it will be their first tournament appearance under Steele. The Musketeers last made the tournament in 2018 as a No. 1 seed, but they lost in the round of 32 against Florida State.