Hoyas Survive Scare from #10 Seed Creighton; Face #6 Seed Xavier Musketeers in the BIG EAST Semis Tonight

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9:30 pm, Madison Square Garden, Fox Sports One

Is the Third Time a Charm?

Last night the #2 seed Hoyas did what it took to get to the Semifinals of the BIG EAST Tournament for the first time since  –it Survived and Advanced, 60-55.  I never believed that the Hoyas would crush Creighton for a third time, as it swept the season series convincingly, nor did this blogger believe that the Hoyas would come so unbearably close to losing in the first round/quarters (after bye).  Without the broad shoulders of one BIG EAST First Team member D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR) and a few clutch plays down the stretch by his teammates, including Josh Smith, and some coaching adjustments, the Hoyas would not be back in the World’s Most Famous Arena tonight facing one of the two teams that swept it in conference play this season:  the Xavier Musketeers.

The Hoyas lost twice to the Musketeers this season, and now they have a chance for redemption.  The newest member of the BIG EAST Conference who has given them the greatest trouble, Xavier has a big man, Matt Stainbrook, who can rival the Hoyas own, Josh Smith, in size and talent.  And they have much more than that.  While Xavier finished 6th in the conference with a current 21-12 record after last night’s 67-61 OT win over Butler, it is a dangerous team and the Hoyas can show its improvement and grit with a win tonight over a team that has given them fits.

Game #1 on the Road:  Who Can Forget How Hoya Fans Rang in the New Year?  

Not the way the Hoyas expected to start the BIG EAST season, they fell hard to the Musketeers on New Year’s Eve (in a game that continued into the early hours off 1-1-15).  LPP, in her post that day, pointed out a few factors that led to that loss: 1.  Over-reliance on DSR and Josh Smith:  DSR led Hoya scorers in that game but also got into early and uncharacteristic foul trouble. While the game was billed as a battle between the two BIG EAST Bigs, Smith and Stainbrook, Xavier easily handled the Hoyas, 70-53.  The Big Men neutralized each other. 2. Team Fouls and Turnovers: The Hoyas committed 26 fouls and had 16 turnovers (DSR and Josh each had 4 TOs).  The Hoyas never really were in the game as a result. Smith, Trawick and Peak finished the game with 4 fouls each and Hopkins fouled out after playing 30 minutes, with 5 boards, 3 blocks , 2 steals and 0 points. 3. Horrendous Team Shooting:  The Hoyas shot 36% shooting from the field, 15% from 3-point line and 68% from the free throw line. Peak and Trawick finished with 6 points each.  Bowen finished with 6 points on 2 for 6 shooting.

For the Musketeers, power forward Jalen Reynolds led the team in scoring with a career high 17 points. Remy Abell, who played tough defense on DSR, and Dee Davis added 12 points each to lead Xavier.

Game #2:  At Verizon Center

Xavier knows how to kick a team down after it rises. Both times the Hoyas entered the Top 25, the last week in December 2014 and this week, the Hoyas faced Xavier. This game was the Hoyas worst and ugliest game of the season to that date, falling to the Musketeers, 66-53.  Xavier held the then newly annointed No. 21 Georgetown without a field goal for more than 11 minutes in the first half.  X’s Myles Davis scored 19 points in only his third start of the season. The score was 29-16 at halftime.

Again, the Hoyas were bothered by Xavier, shooting 39% from the field, 27% from the arc and 52% from the foul line. The Hoyas committed 17 turnovers and had only 9 assists.  The Hoyas got as close as seven late in the second half, but again couldn’t find the hoop for long stretches. Stanbrook finished that game with 12 points.  Josh Smith was 4 for 9 from the line.  DSR scored 13, and Trawick had an uncharacteristic 6 turnovers. LJ Peak who scored 12 points off the bench in 10 minutes of play.

Game #3:  BIG EAST Tournament:  Can the Hoyas Crack the X Code?   Stay tuned … this is the most important game of the season, to date.  Will the Hoyas return to a BIG EAST Final for the first time since  2010?

Keys to Victory:

1.  Balanced Attack.  Check the above.  Over reliance on DSR and Josh Smith won’t win this battle.  Rather, strong play and scoring from the veterans, including Trawick and Hopkins, and freshmen, Copeland, Peak and Campbell, are one key.

2.  Control the Ball:  Too many turnovers and errors in Games 1 and 2.

3.  Defense:  Always.  Should go without saying.  Need to stop their big without our bigs eating the pine early.

4.  Play loose, don’t think too much and have fun:  It’s the BIG EAST Semis.  You are there, Friday night in New York.  You earned this, enjoy it, and play well.

#HoyaSaxa #H4L #BeatXavier


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