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Xavier uses late run to beat WCU

The Musketeers finished the game on a 26-5 run

NCAA Basketball: Green Bay at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

After Saturday’s debacle against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the Xavier Musketeers entered Wednesday’s game in a tenuous position with the fan base. With 13 minutes left and the Western Carolina Catamounts up 55-49, you could forgive Xavier fans for lamenting a seemingly inevitable lost season. The Musketeers figured it out though, finishing the game on a 25-6 run to move to 10-2.

In hindsight, Xavier was really good at the beginning and at the end, but dreadful during the middle half. The Musketeers raced out to a 19-8 lead but then surrendered 10 straight points to get the Catamounts right back into the thick of things. While the remainder of the first half was close, Western Carolina came out of the locker room and dropped 26 points in the first eight minutes of the second half.

After Mason Faulkner’s three gave WCU the 55-49 lead, Xavier finally showed the defense that has gotten them to ten wins this season. The Catamounts wouldn’t score again for more than five minutes and made two FGs the rest of the way.

While the late defense was fantastic, the second half was some of Xavier’s best offense of the season. The Musketeers were their typical inefficient selves in the first half including a stretch where they scored only two points in almost eight minutes, but went 15-26 (57.7%) from the field and 5-9 (55.6%) in the second.

Perhaps most impressively, the Musketeers did it all without their leader in points and assists: Naji Marshall. Marshall was a surprise late scratch due to a stomach bug. Several players picked up the slack, particularly Quentin Goodin and Jason Carter. Goodin had the best game of his senior season with 25 points while adding three assists with only one TO. Carter flashed the all-around game that Marshall usually brings to the table, notching the highest point total of his Musketeer career with 16 points, grabbing nine rebounds, four assists, and four blocks.

Both were efficient as well, combining to go 16-20 from the field and 6-6 from deep. Zach Freemantle added 13 points while Tyrique Jones led the Musketeers with 11 rebounds.

Western Carolina guard Kameron Gibson had an impressive homecoming. The sophomore guard from Walnut Hills High School (less than a mile from Xavier’s campus) scored a season-high 16 points for the Catamounts. NKU transfer Mason Faulkner continued to star for WCU, scoring 14 points and dishing out 6 assists.

The Musketeers will hit the road to play TCU Sunday at 5 p.m. The game will wrap up the Big East-Big 12 battle which the Big East currently leads 5-2. The Big East needs one more win to clinch the challenge and it’ll get the chance when Villanova plays at Kansas and Providence battles Texas on Saturday.