Xavier lands critical win at No. 10 Seton Hall as McKnight goes down

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Seton Hall kept playing with fire, so it should come as no surprise that the tenth-ranked Pirates eventually got burned.

Xavier jumped out to a 30-6 lead on Kevin Willard’s club in the first 12 minutes, cruising to a 74-62 win in Newark on the strength of a virtuoso 19-point, 16-rebound, four-block performance from Tyrique Jones. Naji Marshall added 18 points, nine boards and four assists for the Musketeers, who desperately needed a win to get themselves back onto the right side of the bubble.

Xavier entered the season as one of the favorites in the Big East this season, but they entered Super Bowl weekend having lost six of their first eight games in league play, knocking themselves onto the wrong side of the bubble in the process. If losing in overtime to a short-handed Marquette at home felt like the end of their season, this win is the rebirth.

Seton Hall is a top 15 team in every metric and poll on the planet. Beating them on the road is precisely the kind of marquee win that the Musketeers have been lacking. They entered the day just 1-7 against Quad 1 opponents without so much as a single top 50 win. This changes that, and with games at DePaul and against Providence at home coming up next week, it should be the kind of confidence-builder that launches a winning streak.

But it also is probably the second-biggest story coming out of this game.

The Pirates lost their first game in the Big East, and we cannot say that this wasn’t coming for a while. Seton Hall has developed a bit of a habit of falling behind early in games only to find a way to rally and win. They erased a 10 point halftime deficit at Butler. They were down 13 at the half and won at St. John’s. They trailed DePaul by nine in the second half and came back to win.

They may have done the same on Saturday, as they trimmed the Xavier lead all the way down to six points with seven minutes left in the game.

But that’s when Quincy McKnight went down. Seton Hall’s starting point guard, McKnight has really taken a step forward in the last six weeks. He’s averaging 11.3 points, 5.5 assists and 1.7 steals and is a much-improved three-point shooter and playmaker. He is one of the major reasons that the Pirates have continued to get better throughout the season.

Late in the second half, he landed awkwardly on a contested layup and bent his knee and ankle in a way they shouldn’t bend. He was helped off the floor and taken to the locker room, and Seton Hall has not yet updated his status.

The Pirates will, at worst, be tied for first in the Big East at the end of the day with two games left against Villanova, who is currently in second-place. While losing at home is not ideal, they can very much still win everything they want to win this season.

That gets just a bit harder if McKnight misses significant time.