(photo courtesy of Desmond Fischer/ Xavier Newswire)
Tonight, Xavier was in a situation they were yet to see in this young season. Down by three points with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
Shooting was a struggle, they blew a 15 point lead and were now facing a 2-1 record to start the season. But Naji Marshall had other plans for Xavier when despite all of the problems going on in the game, Marshall came up with the much needed shot to tie the game and give Xavier a chance to win against a skilled Missouri team. A team Xavier was defeated by last season.
"I already knew it was going in, that's what I got to say" Paul Scruggs said of the shot from Naji Marshall. Forward Jason Carter dug a little deeper into the basket "Naji's gonna hit those big shots. We expect it from him, we trust each other. I had no doubt in my mind we were gonna come out on top."
While Jason Carter may have seemed confident Xavier was going to win, many others did not. It's hard to blame them either. Xavier had been trailing the last 12 minutes of regulation, gave up a 10-0 run to Missouri and also went 0/7 from the field on a 4:27 stretch and shot 3/21 from 3 throughout the game. But somehow, they won.
"That's what we call a rock fight." Xavier Head Coach Travis Steele said in his opening statement for the postgame presser. "I knew it wasn't gonna be pretty, it was gonna be ugly at times and I was really proud of our guys for handling the adversity we faced going through the game." Steele went on to say that he wanted to see his team face adversity since they had not yet so far this season.
This game started off smooth sailing for the Musketeers in the first half. With 4:43 remaining in the half Xavier was leading 27-12. They also had 6 kills on defense in the half and forced 13 turnovers. Their defense was locked in and wasn't giving Missouri any chance of getting back in the game. Or so we thought.
Missouri went on to start a 12-2 run that started at the end of the first half and carried into the second. At 11:23 remaining in the game Missouri took the lead as a part of their big scoring run and also forcing Xavier to miss shots and get their offense out of sorts. Although Missouri held the lead for a good chunk of time, Xavier kept doing what they had to do to stay in striking distance.
After Missouri extended their lead to 5 points, Jason Carter got rolling for Xavier making big shots and fighting hard for rebounds. Carter ended the night with 12 points and 11 rebounds gaining his first double-double in his time at Xavier. Scruggs, who hadn't scored until 8:17 to go in the game ended up scoring 8 points in the last stretch of regulation, setting his team up for Marshall to hit the biggest shot of the game.
From there on, Xavier went on to Overtime where they hit eight free throws in OT to pickup their third win of the season. Up next for Xavier is Missouri St. Missouri State is 2-1 so far winning their most recent game against Cleveland State by a score of 73-53. Tip off is Friday at Cintas Center at 7PM.