It is said that sometimes one is the nail and sometimes one is the hammer. Xavier might have been the hammer Tuesday night against Missouri, but it only wound up hitting the nail after hitting their own fingers a dozen or so times first.
Xavier had a chance to put Missouri away much earlier than they wound up doing in their 63-58 overtime victory. The Musketeers led by as much as 15 in the first half and as much as 10 early in the second before a seven-minute Xavier dry spell allowed Missouri to grab a four-point lead. Missouri held the lead all the way until Naji Marshall’s three with 26 seconds left sent the game to OT. Xavier never trailed in the overtime period.
Xavier’s trouble can pretty easily be identified as poor outside shooting. It wasn’t just poor numbers (the Musketeers shot just 3-21 (14.3%) from beyond-the-arc which dropped their season percentage to 23.8%), rather it was that almost all of the shots were wide-open attempts off of good ball movement. Missouri did not shoot much better at 6-25 from downtown, but many of their attempts were well-defended by the Musketeers.
As expected, Xavier was able to dominate Mizzou on the defensive end. Xavier was able to hold the Tigers to 58 points in 45 minutes by forcing 20 turnovers and holding the Tigers to just 15 free throw attempts. It took most of the first half for the Tigers to get anything going, as they didn’t clear 12 points until less than five minutes remained in the first half. Much of that slow start was due to Xavier getting Missouri forward Jeremiah Tilmon (23 points and 12 rebounds against Xavier in 2018-19) out of the game with two quick fouls.
At the end of the day, a win against an SEC team is a quality win. While three-point shooting was not expected to be a strength of this team (Xavier shot at a 33.1% clip last season, good for 251st of 353 teams), it was supposed to get better with the additions of transfers Jason Carter and Bryce Moore. Better shooting hasn’t bore out so far this season, but it’s nice to see Xavier fight through a tough win while being ice cold from downtown.
- The Missouri game did a number on many Musketeers stats. Senior guard Quentin Goodin had one assist to go with six turnovers while Marshall had three assists and four turnovers. Marshall led the game with 17 points but did it while shooting 5-16 from the field. The only Musketeer to shoot 50% or better from the field was freshman forward Zach Freemantle who had 4 points on 2-4 shooting.
- Despite shooting rather inefficiently like all of his teammates, junior forward Jason Carter had an impressive all-round game and picked up his first double-double as a Musketeer with 12 points and 11 rebounds. While it won’t show up in the box score, Carter had key plays on both ends during pivotal moments down the stretch.
- After missing the game against Siena with a knee injury, junior guard Paul Scruggs played 40 minutes and scored 12 points.
- Alas, it seems that the Leighton Schrand era is over far too soon. After starting and playing significant minutes in the first two games, the former walk-on guard did not play in the Missouri game.
- After playing more than 20 minutes in each of the first two games, freshman guard Dahmir Bishop only played 7 minutes in a tougher game against Missouri. Freshman forward Zach Freemantle played 12 minutes after playing 19 minutes in each of the first two games.
- Xavier Head Coach Travis Steele picked up his 22nd win as coach of the Musketeers. It was his 38th birthday and his 38th game as Xavier head coach.
- r-Jr. guard Dru Smith was the star for Missouri, recording career highs with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Xavier will welcome Missouri State to Cintas Center Friday at 7 p.m. before heading to the Palmetto State for the Charleston Classic. The game against Bears will be televised on FSN.