By Tim Daniel
Paul Scruggs received the ball from the opening tip-off, attacked the rim for a layup, and from there set the tone for the Musketeers in their Gavitt Games matchup against In-state opponent Ohio State University.
While Xavier didn't end up surrendering the lead throughout their upset victory over the Buckeyes, this game still had its challenges. Starting big man Dieonte Miles got into early foul trouble for the Musketeers playing against NBA Draft prospect E.J. Liddell. In the first half, Miles had three fouls while Liddell had six of his career-high 8 blocks in half alone.
Also in the first half, Xavier struggled to find their shot, shooting just 46% from the floor and 25% from deep. The Musketeers also were not attacking the paint like they normally do, as a team, they shot just one free throw in the half.
Even with their shooting troubles, Xavier lead the Buckeyes 35-26 going into the half, mostly thanks to their rebounding and defensive ability. At the half, Xavier was +6 in rebound differential and -2 in the turnover margin.
As the second half started, Ohio State kept getting closer and closer to the Musketeers on the scoreboard, but Xavier kept finding a way to stop them from tying the game with punches from senior leaders Paul Scruggs and Nate Johnson. Transfer, Jack Nunge had his best game since coming to Xavier playing 31 minutes and picking up a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Nunge also took home the junkyard dog for this game due to his efforts in the game.
With 2:55 to go in the game, E.J. Liddell scored a layup to make the game 59-56. From there, once again Paul Scruggs took over scoring ten of his team's last 12 points, including an emphatic dunk over Liddell with 30 seconds remaining to extend Xavier's lead to five points.
Scruggs also stole the Buckeyes' inbound pass in the last possession to seal the win and the upset for Xavier.
With this victory, Xavier is now 3-0 to start the 2021-22 NCAA Basketball season, but this was about much more than just a regular-season win.
The first one is the victory clinches the Gavitt games for the Big East over the Big Ten. Xavier joins conference mates Marquette, Providence, Creighton, Seton Hall, and DePaul all as teams who grabbed wins over their Big Ten foe.
Secondly, the Rage for Cage. The revenge game the Musketeer faithful had been waiting for over the last 14 years. The game gives Xavier fans some closure from their loss to Ohio State in the 2007 NCAA Tournament where a controversial foul was not called against a future #1 pick in the NBA draft, Greg Oden. Ohio State went on to win that game over Xavier 78-71.
Sophomore wing Colby Jones now has 15 offensive rebounds which according to Sports Reference CBB ties him for seventh in the country in this respective statistic.
Lastly, shout out to my guy @retireFiftyTu for this nugget: Xavier is now 37-0 at home against teams from Ohio since 2004. The Musketeers have won 17 straight home games against Dayton, Cincinnati, and Ohio State.
Up next for Xavier, a Sunday matinee tip-off against undefeated Norfolk State. Game starts as 12 PM before Xavier heads to Brooklyn, NY for the pre-season NIT.
(photos courtesy of Desmond Fisher of the Xavier News Wire)