Xavier Claw Past Missouri State 59-56

The Musketeers pull out a tight one against the Bears
Source: Springfield News-Leader

Pregame

The 3-0 Xavier Musketeers are wrapping up a four-game homestead against the 2-1 Missouri State Bears tonight at a packed Cintas Center. Both teams are very good defensively and the question before the game has to be is this the night that Xavier finds it’s legs on the offensive side of the floor? On paper, it looks like a fairly easy Musketeer win but ask Kentucky what happens when you look ahead and take an opponent lightly, and Missouri State was the preseason favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference.

First Half

The Musketeers came out playing an attacking physical style, which they always seem to do. Scruggs and Goodin appear to make poor choices when they get into the paint, but overall the Musketeers played a great first 4 minutes and lead 8-0. Tyrique Jones had an enormous block which turned into an easy transition bucket for Paul Scruggs as Xavier ran off 10-straight points until the Bears’ Lamont West finally broke through with a 3-point basket at the 15-minute mark, cutting the Muskies lead to 10-3.

The game stayed a physical battle, but the Bears played much better after the opening Xavier onslaught. With around 7 minutes left in the half the Bears turned up the heat, pressuring the Muskies the length of the court and it seemed to bother the Muskies. Then Keandre Cook started to warm up by taking it to the basket for an old fashioned 3-point play, and then with 4 minutes left in the half hit a three from behind the arc, slashing the Muskies lead to 26-23. The rest of the half was played fairly even but the momentum seems to be slowly swinging in the Bears favor. A Tyrik Dixon twisting layup cut the Muskies lead to 2 points headed into the half. Just like the Missouri game on Tuesday the Musketeers came out pumped up and on fire but for whatever reason could not sustain that energy.

2nd Half

Both teams opened up the second half shooting the ball better, especially the Bears who got a deep 3-point shot from Tyrik Dixon and then another three from Lamonte West that tied the game at 36. Scruggs and Carter hit back to back layups to extend the Muskies lead back up to 4 with 16 minutes left.

Quentin Gooden drained a three with 13 minutes left in the half, putting Xavier back up 44-40. The next few minutes were all Xavier as Paul Scruggs made plays on both ends of the floor, first off hitting a huge 3-pointer from the baseline and then holding his ground and drawing a charge. With 10:34 left in the half the Muskies had pulled out to a 49-40 lead and have what feels like major momentum on their side. The Bears are going to have to weather this storm or the game could get out of hand.

As so often has been the case early in this young season the Muskies seem to be rolling but it never lasts for very long and right now the Bears have fought their way back into this. Lamonte West led the charge with a dunk that hit off the rim went into the air and came back down through the basket. So it looks like the Missouri State Bears are going to claw to the very end, with the Muskies lead by 3 points with 7:30 to go.

The Muskies got a little separation when Naji Marshall drove and missed and Tyrique grabbed the ball and slammed it through, extending the Muskies lead to 56-50 with 3:44 left. Gige Prim made a couple of huge plays for the Bears to tie the game at 56 with a little under a minute left. At this point, as has happened in a game marred by technicals and turnovers, the Bears got a technical on Keandre Cook and Naji Marshall stepped to the line and made the free throw to put the Muskies up one with 57 seconds left.

Paul Scruggs came up big with a driving layup with 11.6 seconds left to give Xavier a 59-56 lead. Tyrik Dixon on the final possession drove down and got a solid look at a three from the top of the key but missed, the ball was rebound on the baseline by Lamonte West who rimmed out a final three-point attempt.

Xavier is now 4-0 but it was not easy as a hard-nosed Bears team gave them all they wanted. Xavier forced 22 turnovers, but the Muskies themselves committed 15 and it’s something they have to clean up before Big East play, and for that matter, before they travel to Charleston for next week’s tournament. All and all it’s hard to complain about a 4-0 start but this team has too much talent to struggle the way they do on the offensive end of the court.

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