By Josh Adams
Newark- It was a little bit of everything tonight at the Prudential Center as the Xavier Musketeers came into town to face the Seton Hall Pirates. There were numerous shot-clock malfunctions, some rim-rattling slams and a furious comeback from the home team to close out the game that ended up just short as Xavier held off the Pirates late rally to get the road win, 70-69.
The Pirates were rolling coming into tonight’s game with consecutive wins over Creighton and Georgetown and have established themselves as a team heading towards an NCAA bid. They welcomed a Xavier team that was coming into their own with two consecutive wins over Creighton and Providence. In the Big East this season, there’s nothing given as the Musketeers got a 28 point performance from Naji Marshall and held off a 17-2 run to finish the game from the Pirates to muscle out a one point win in front of a stunned crowd of 7,916 on Wednesday evening.
Myles Cale led the Pirates with 21 points. Myles Powell had 17 in the Pirates (16-10, 7-7) loss. Powell couldn’t get off the final shot in the waining seconds as Marshall came up with the near steal that caused Powell to pass it to Shavar Reynolds for the desperation heave at the end that didn’t fall.
Along with Marshall’s 28 points, Tyrique Jones had a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Musketeers (14-13, 6-8) who now ride a three game winning streak in conference play.
Asked after the game about the Pirates having a letdown tonight, Kevin Willard said, “I knew we were in for a physical game and I was a little surprised how we came out not understanding how physical they were playing. And that goes on me.”
Powell was despondent after the game knowing that this could be a crucial loss to the Pirates postseason hopes. He hoped to call a team meeting to get everyone on the same page before the rivalry game on Saturday night against St. John’s in a game that has huge NCAA Tournament implications for both teams.
Tonight’s loss was sobering for Willard, Powell and his teammates and Pirates fans. This year has seen it’s highs and lows but the end is coming soon. To guarantee an NCAA berth, the Pirates have the Red Storm and Georgetown (who stunned Villanova tonight) on the road and Marquette and Villanova at home. The road to the NCAA Tournament is never easy but tonight’s loss was a tremendous bump in that road. A familiar foe in St. John’s awaits on Saturday.
PHOTO: Tyrique Jones/cincinnati.com