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Xavier loses to Wake Forest in game it had no business losing

The Musketeers follow up their big Shootout win with a baffling loss

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Wake Forest
Paul Scruggs did his best to avoid Xavier’s embarrassing loss.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe we should have seen this coming. After all, the Xavier Musketeers were coming off of the highlight of their season so far and was traveling to face a power conference team. The fact that it was a bad power conference team made it a stereotypical trap game.

Xavier lost to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 80-78 in a game that took a late Xavier rally to make it look close. Xavier had no answer for junior guard Chaundee Brown, who scored a career-best 26 points. Star senior point guard Brandon Childress dropped in an additional 22 points to do in the Musketeers.

After Wake Forest’s 7’0” center Olivier Sarr was a late scratch, Xavier seemed destined to dominate down low. Instead, Demon Deacons coach sent everyone inside to stifle the Xavier offense. Wake Forest, a team who was without a player taller than 6’8” or heavier than 205 pounds wound up out-rebounding the Musketeers and holding them to 27-67 (40.3% from the field).

Xavier was unable to find away around Wake’s pack-the-paint approach. Xavier was repeatedly swarmed on drives and, after going just 3-15 from deep in the first half, the Musketeers did not attempt another three until just 6:49 remained in the game. The Musketeers hit three threes in the rally down the stretch. but still finished just 6-22.

It was a back-and-forth first half, until the Demon Deacons close the half on a 7-0 run to take a 39-30 halftime lead. Wake Forest’s advantage remained near that number for much of the second half, with Wake grabbing a 13-point lead with 7:31 left. Xavier whittled the lead down to two, but Quentin Goodin’s potential game-winning three clanged off the rim at the buzzer.

Junior guard Paul Scruggs lead Xavier with a career-high 30 points, going 13-19 from the field and 4-9 from deep. Junior forward Naji Marshall had 16 points before fouling out with 3:44 to go. Foul trouble was a theme for the Musketeers as senior forward Tyrique Jones and Goodin each finished with four. Jones shook off two early fouls to record his sixth double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Xavier will look to rebound in the second half of the Skip Prosser Classic when Western Carolina visits Cintas Center Wednesday, December 18 at 6:30 p.m. The Catamounts are coached by Skip’s son, Mark Prosser and are coming off of a dramatic 78-77 victory over UNC Asheville at home last Saturday.