CINCINNATI — Paul Scruggs scored 14 points and made a layup with 11.6 seconds left Friday night, helping No. 21 Xavier hold off Missouri State for a 59-56 victory.
The Musketeers (4-0) never trailed but couldn’t shake clear of the team picked to win the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bears (2-2) tied it at 56, but Xavier made a free throw and two big plays in the closing seconds.
After Naji Marshall’s free throw broke the tie, Tyrique Jones missed a jumper but got the rebound and passed to Scruggs, who drove for a layup and a 59-56 lead. The Bears missed a pair of 3-point shots in the closing seconds.
Jones added 15 points and six rebounds but had five of Xavier’s 15 turnovers. The Musketeers again struggled to make perimeter shots, going 5 of 23 from beyond the arc.
Lamont West and Keandre Cook scored 13 points apiece for the Bears, who had 22 turnovers.
The Musketeers were coming off a ragged 63-58 overtime victory over Missouri. They blew a 15-point lead and rallied from behind to send it overtime on Marshall’s 3-pointer late in regulation.
On Friday, the Musketeers opened with a 10-0 run that included a 3-pointer by Quentin Goodin and prompted Missouri State to call a timeout to get settled down. The Bears kept it close the rest of the way, tying it twice in the second half.
Xavier’s biggest problem has been a lack of points from the perimeter, and the Musketeers struggled early in the game to make shots from beyond the arc, missing five of their first six. The Bears also took advantage of 10 Xavier turnovers in the first half and trailed 32-30 at the break.
West’s 3-pointer tied it at 36 early in the second half, but Scruggs hit a layup and a 3 as Xavier rebuilt the lead 49-40. The Musketeers couldn’t break free, however, repeatedly missing open outside shots. Gaige Prim’s fast-break dunk tied it at 56 with 1:29 to go.
Missouri State: The Bears are 6-39 all-time against Top 25 teams. Their last win over a ranked team was 77-65 over No. 21 Creighton on Dec. 28, 2011.
Xavier: The Musketeers came in shooting 20.6% from beyond the arc this season and were coming off a 3-for-21 performance against Missouri.
Missouri State plays Miami in the Charleston Classic on Thursday.
Xavier plays Towson in the Charleston Classic on Thursday.