The Catamounts are 7-2, coming off a 78-77 win over UNC Asheville. The Musketeers are 9-2 after falling at Wake Forest, 80-78. Paul Scruggs was on fire against Wake Forest, but unfortunately, he was the only one, as Naji Marshall and Tyrique Jones got in foul trouble which hamstrung the Muskies most of the night. Western Carolina comes into the game on a 5-game winning streak and they rank 44th in the nation when it comes to scoring offense. Xavier has to be the heavy favorite entering the game but if they are not on top of their game WCU could keep this closer than expected.
The first 3 minutes of the game typified what we have seen from Xavier for most of this season which is missed shots. Tyrique Jones picked up a quick foul 30 seconds into the game. Cincinnati native Kameron Gibson gave WCU an early 3-2 lead when he banged home a three-point field goal 3 minutes in. The Muskies finally got going with a couple of quick three-point field goals by Quentin Goodin to give the Muskies a 10-5 lead, 5 minutes into the game.
The next 5 minutes was a display of power on offense for Xavier, specifically Jason Carter and Zach Freemantle, who took the game driving the Muskies to a 19-8 lead half-way through the first half. Then as Xavier has so often done this season the offense looses direction and movement slows down. WCU then goes on an 8-0 run to close the gap to 3 points as Xavier calls a timeout with 8:19 left in the half.
The Xavier offense continues to struggle with Bryce Moore and KyKy Tabdy continuing to miss shots. The Muskies have scored just two points in the last 8 minutes and now sit in a tie with the Catamounts at 21-21 with 3:25 left in the half. Mason Faulkner has hit a couple of threes to help bring WCU back into the contest and the feeling is uneasy in the Cintas Center.
The Muskies go to the locker room with a 32-29 lead and Coach Steele can’t be pleased with the offensive execution. The Catamounts are a real threat and the Muskies shot selection needs to get better and they need to knock down open shots. Jason Carter and Zack Freemantle had their moments and overall Quentin Goodin has played very well.
The second half finds both teams finding their shooting stroke and it’s a good thing for WCU as their best inside threat Carlos Dotson has been in foul trouble seemingly all night and picks up his third foul just a minute into the second half. Cincinnati native Kameron Gibson is continuing to play well as he hits a couple of three-pointers and all of the sudden 4 minutes into the second half. WCU leads 47-43.
Coming out of the timeout Kameron Gibson bangs another three, extending the WCU lead to 50-43. Bryce Moore, who has had a rough night shooting the ball, made up for it forcing two turnovers on the defensive end of the floor. Quentin Goodin continued having a big night scoring his 18 and 19th points of the night as the Muskies cut the WCU lead to 55-53 with 11:29 left in the game. Bryce Moore continues to play well on the defensive end of the floor and baskets by Jason Carter and Zack Freemantle put the Muskies up 4 with 9 minutes left in the game.
The Muskies finally started to take control of the game. Tyrique Jones started to will himself into the game with a couple of quick baskets and Jason Carter knocked home a huge three-pointer with 3:50 left in the game to extend the muskies lead to 10 points with 3:50 left in the game. Quentin Goodin continued his big night, hitting another 3 to extend the Muskies lead to 70-59 with just over two minutes left.
Quentin Goodin was the man of the hour tonight as he accounted for 25 points and Bryce Moore played great on the defensive end of the floor. Jason Carter and Zach Freemantle also had solid games underneath and as always when a big rebound was needed Tyrique Jones got it. Western Carolina is a solid team that pushed Florida State to the brink earlier this year. While not a great performance the second half was closer to what you want from Xavier as they turned the defense up and knocked down some timely shots to escape with a 74-61 win in a game that was closer than the final score would indicate.