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Xavier blows past Toledo in NIT opener

It was close, until it wasn’t.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Xavier Musketeers opened NIT play with a bang on Wednesday night, taking care of business against in-state foes Toledo, 78-64.

Thanks to the weird experimental NIT three-point line, the Musketeers struggled to find their shot from deep in the first half, going just 2-14 from beyond the arc and leading to a 27-27 tie at the break.

The second half, however, changed everything. The Musketeers come out of the locker room on a 23-11 run over the first nine minutes of the second half, as the threes started falling in bunches. Quentin Goodin it one. Then Paul Scruggs. Then Scruggs again. Then Goodin again. Then Naji Marshall got in on the fun. It’s almost as if the NIT and NCAA should have given a bit more warning so these players could practice with the longer line for more than two days, but I digress.

Speaking of Marshall, his second half was remarkable. He scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, and hauled in 11 of his TWENTY ONE rebounds, joining Tyrique Jones as the only two current Xavier players to reach the 20+ rebound mark this season.

Jaelan Sanford led the Rockets with 23 points.

In a way, this game was a lot like Xavier’s season. It was a slow first half, but once they put everything together and got going, look out. Xavier will head to Austin where they’ll play the Texas Longhorns on Saturday. If the Musketeers win, it will be their seventh straight trip to the NIT Quarterfinals.