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Xavier rebounds from sluggish first half to beat undermanned Georgetown

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Facing a Georgetown squad with just ten available scholarship players, Xavier seemed poised to get back on track after suffering their first Big East loss at Creighton on Sunday afternoon. But things didn’t work out that way in the game’s first 20 minutes, with the combination of Georgetown’s hot three-point shooting and Xavier’s lack of both effort and execution being the biggest factors.

The argument that a Georgetown team that entered the game shooting just 33% from beyond the arc wouldn’t duplicate its 63.6% first half could certainly be made, but that would only be the case if Chris Mack’s team showed greater effort defensively. And that’s exactly what happened, as the Musketeers outscored Georgetown 44-14 over the final 15 minutes to win 80-67 in Cincinnati.

What happened? Xavier got tougher on the defensive end, no longer allowing Georgetown to simply go through its movements with little or no resistance. As a team the Hoyas shot 37.5% in the second half and made just three three-pointers, with senior guard Markel Starks shooting 2-for-8 from the field. Also of note is the fact that the Hoyas committed twice as many turnovers in the second half (six) as they did in the first (three).

Offensively Xavier did a much better job of utilizing their balance (four players finished in double figures) and attacking after they spent much of the first half slowed down (and possibly even perplexed) by the Georgetown zone. Dee Davis scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and Semaj Christon added ten (18 for the game) for the Musketeers, who shot 57.7% from the field in the second half and scored 1.55 points per possession.

Xavier’s improved execution allowed them to finally take advantage of Georgetown’s lack of depth, pulling away to win by a margin that can lead some to forget how difficult the first half was.

In regards to Xavier’s hopes of contending for the Big East title the win was a big one, as they’ll play five of their next seven league games away from the Cintas Center. Back in October the expectation was that Xavier would be an improved basketball team, but few thought them capable of being a contender in their new league. If they execute at the level they did over the final 15 minutes on Wednesday night, the Musketeers are capable of doing so.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.