Shootout Collapse Hurts, But XU Still Has Hope With Remaining Schedule
By: Craig James
It was a tale of two halves for the Musketeers on Thursday night. Holy Trevon Bluiett. Let me repeat, HOLY TREVON BLUIETT. The guy was hotter than Reggie Miller from the corner in NBA Jam.
He was 12 of 15 from the field with a 9 of 11 performance from three. Really wish this game was at Xavier, one because I would have been there, and two, because XU’s PA announcer absolutely loves three pointers. Three point field goal for Bluiett *on repeat* (PA announcer voice). He finished with 40 points and it was one of the top Shootout performances of all-time, unfortunately it was in a loss.
If you would have told me Xavier would shoot 53.6% from three and lose I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s exactly what happened. Why did that happen? It happened because Xavier was softer than Charmin on the boards. UC pushed them around all night, especially in the second half. Paging RaShid Gaston paging RaShid Gaston… RaShid was completely manhandled last night and finished with 20 minutes, 4 boards and 0 points.
That sucked to see because RaShid is one of my favorite Muskies on this team. I wish Xavier getting dominated on the boards was fake news, but it was definitely real, and definitely painful to watch. Credit to UC. The worst looking arena in America was rocking last night and they took it to the Muskies in the second half.
Xavier got their teeth kicked in the second half and lost to their rivals snapping their three game winning streak… sooooo where do the Musketeers go from here?
Xavier will obviously fall out of the top 25. They still have some great opportunities for key wins down the stretch. They still have to go play at Creighton. Creighton isn’t the same since Watson went down against the Muskies. That would still be a top 25 win though and Creighton’s crowd is absolutely rocking every game, because let’s face it there is nothing else to do in Nebraska.
Villanova comes to the Cintas Center on February 11th. Xavier is 1-0 at the Cintas when playing Villanova with me in the building, so they have that going for them. Butler comes to Xavier on February 26th. The Musketeers still have two matchups with Marquette who could very likely be in the top 25 soon. So, everything Xavier wants to accomplish this season is still there for the taking.
They’ve come up short in their big games so far this season, but the remaining games still give them the chance to have a very impressive resume. With all that being said, they need to get a whole lot tougher on the boards or it’s not going to matter who they are playing, they will be handed more Ls.
I thought it was interesting that Chris Mack gave Kaiser Gates his first career start in the Shootout. His first start did not go well, ending with 2 rebounds and 3 points in 18 minutes. He seems to be moving around better on the floor than earlier this season coming off his foot injury. Xavier needs to have more production out of him down the stretch. After RaShid Gaston getting tossed around Thursday night like he did, I would consider giving Tyrique Jones start.
Losing to UC sucks and Chris Mack calling them soft after the game will hopefully grab their attention and motivate them to step it up. This Xavier team has had the highest expectations of any Xavier team. They started the season with their highest ranking in program history. If we’re being honest, so far they have not lived up to the expectations. Not all is lost though. Hopefully Sumner can get back to 100%. When he is, he’s one of the most electrifying players in the Big East and all of college basketball. Plenty of great opportunities are ahead for the Muskies. In the words of the great modern day philosopher Big Sean “last night took an L, but the Muskies WILL bounce back.”