Xavier comes into this matchup with a 7-1 record and the only loss on that record was to the Florida Gators in a close game in the championship game of the Charleston Classic. Green Bay, on the other hand, has not fared as well against a tough non-conference schedule. The Phoenix have lost on the road to Purdue, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, as well as at home to Colgate. They’ve got wins against CSU Northridge and Montana State, as well as non-league Wisconsin Stout, to run their record to 3-4. Going into this game it looks like a mismatch and the only real question will be, is Xavier be looking ahead to Saturday’s “Crosstown Shootout”?
The first 4 minutes of the game saw the Phoenix speed the pace up. In the first two minutes of the contest is seemed to backfire as the Muskies jumped up 7-2. Xavier seemed to try and force things on the offensive side of the court and Phoenix went on a 6-0 run, led by guard Amari Davis to take an 8-7 lead. A Paul Scruggs layup put the Muskies back up 9-8 headed into the first television timeout.
The next 4 minutes saw the lead rotate back and forth and Zach Freemantle made a couple of huge plays to keep the Green Bay lead to just one. The Muskies were forcing a lot of bad threes and seem to still be trying to force things on the offensive end.
Trevian Bell hit a three-point field goal as did KyKy Tandy over the next few minutes, but the Muskies were being out-hustled by the Phoenix. Are they looking ahead to Saturday? If they are this could turn into a long night for Muskies. From there Xavier star Naji Marshall started to impose his will on the game. Marshall scored 8 points over the next 4 minutes of action. A Tyrique Jones steal lead to a Paul Scruggs follow up that forced a Green Bay timeout with a little over 3 minutes left to go in the half. The Muskies had their biggest lead of the night at 36-30.
Just as it started to look like the Muskies had righted the ship, Will Chevalier stopped the bleeding by hitting a three-pointer and he just missed tying the game at the buzzer, ending the first half. Xavier leads at halftime 38-35 and fans are getting a little worried.
Xavier struck quick to open up the second half as Paul Scruggs hit a baseline three-pointer, followed by a Naji Marshall basket to push Xavier’s lead to 8 points just a minute into the half. The next few minutes were uneventful because neither team could buy a basket. With 15:57 left in the game, the Muskies led 47-39. The first 4 minutes saw as many combined turnovers for the team as they both had the entire first half. Amari Davis was keeping the Phoenix in the game as he hit multiple baskets to cut the Xavier lead to 7. At that point, Naji Marshall started to get it going again, making a couple quick buckets. KyKy Tandy gave the Muskies even more breathing room with his second three-pointer of the game to extend the Xavier lead to 56-44 with 11:35 left.
Just when it seemed the Muskies were about to put away the Phoenix, Green bay got two quick buckets by Chevalier and Josh McNair to cut the Xavier lead to 8 with just under 10 minutes left to go in the game.
The Muskies suffered a loss when KyKy Tandy went out of the game with an injury with 9 minutes left in the game after converting a layup that extended Xavier lead to 15. Phoenix came back and answered with a JayQuan McCloud three to make the Xavier lead 65-53 with 8:25 to go. McCloud hit another 3 and P.J. Pipes got a layup, and back come the Phoenix, cutting the lead to 9 points with a little over 6 and half minutes left. This game has seen both teams get 9 turnovers to this point but it seems like more as the game just has a sloppy feel to it. The Muskies lead 74-63 with a little under 4 minutes left.
Quintin Goodin hit a baseline three to give Xavier a 14-point cushion with 3:34 left in the game. Per usual the Phoenix will not go away. Hankerson hit a three to pull them back within 12. Quintin Goodin’s three with 1:30 left in the game seems to be the final nail in the Green Bay coffin, pushing the Xavier lead to 15.
This was not a great performance by the Musketeers, but you kind of had to figure a performance like this was due with the “Crosstown Shootout” looming on Saturday afternoon. The Muskies defensively are very good but the offense needs to pick up to contend for a championship in the Big East.
Saturday at the Cintas Center should be a battle. The Muskies will enter with an 8-1 record after beating Green Bay 84-71.