CINCINNATI (AP) — Xavier coach Travis Steele was concerned about his team’s focus for Wednesday’s game against Wisconsin Green Bay with a matchup with crosstown rival Cincinnati coming up next. But the Musketeers were able to overcome a sluggish performance.
Naji Marshall scored a season-high 24 points, and Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs and Tyrique Jones each scored 14, lifting Xavier to an 84-71 victory over Green Bay.
The Musketeers (8-1) committed 10 turnovers and shot just 24% from three-point range in their final tune-up before Saturday’s meeting with the rival Bearcats at Cintas Center.
“Green Bay was the harder playing team,” Steele said. “We looked like a bunch of individuals. We have to be better. We couldn’t find a group that had the energy we wanted.”
A big second half from Jones gave Xavier a boost. He grabbed 14 rebounds for his 16th career double-double and fifth this season.
“We didn’t want to lose the game,” Jones said. “We needed to come out with some juice in the second half, and I think we did that. I’m just happy we got the win.”
Amari Davis scored 19 points and JayQuan McCloud added 15 for Green Bay.
Xavier led 38-35 after a frenetic first half. It was the second-most points allowed by the Musketeers in the first half this season. They allowed 39 in a loss to Florida on Nov. 24 in the Charleston Classic.
“We played their style of basketball for sure,” Steele said. “I told our guys, ‘This isn’t tennis’. We have to get stops. We have to be who we are. I want to see us reach our standards at both ends of the floor.”
Green Bay (3-5) came in to Wednesday’s game averaging 76.6 possessions per 40 minutes which ranked ninth-most in Division I, according to Pomeroy ratings.
There were 15 lead changes in the first half as the Musketeers tried to match Green Bay’s pace.
“We scouted them,” said Marshall. “We knew they were one of the fastest teams in college basketball. That’s on us.”
Marshall’s second three-pointer gave the Musketeers their largest lead, 51-41, with 13:40 left.
Xavier’s defense, which has been a strength early this season, tightened up in the second half and the Phoenix were just 3 of 14 from three-point range after halftime.
"For the most part we did what we wanted to do, keep it packed in and make them hit jumpers,” said Green Bay coach Linc Darner. “In the second half, they decided to slash and drive get it to the rim. They are bigger and stronger than we are.”
Xavier freshman guard KyKy Tandy, playing his second game since missing the first seven games due to injury, scored 10 points including a pair of three-pointers. But with 8:57 remaining in the game, he was hit in the mouth while scoring a layup and did not return. According to Steele, Tandy bit his lip and had to have stitches. He is expected to play against Cincinnati on Saturday.
With the game being played mostly full court in the first half, Jones only had two shot attempts. But, with the Musketeers clinging to a slim lead, the senior forward took over, scoring 10 points with 11 rebounds after halftime. “Tyrique played a lot better in the second half,” Steele said. “He was out of it the first half, mentally.”
Steele said earlier in the week that he didn’t think his team deserved to be 7-1. After Wednesday night’s win, he said the team’s 8-1 record was irrelevant. With Saturday’s game against Cincinnati and road trips to Wake Forest, TCU and Villanova coming up this month, Steele said his team needs to improve quickly. “With the schedule we having coming up, things have to change or we’re going to take some lumps,” he said.
Green Bay plays at Eastern Illinois on Saturday.
Xavier hosts Cincinnati on Saturday.