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No. 21 Xavier rallies past Missouri 63-58 in overtime

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CINCINNATI — Xavier had made only two 3-pointers all game, none in the second half. Down by three in the closing seconds, the 21st-ranked Musketeers desperately needed somebody to finally hit from long range.

Naji Marshall swished one from the top of the key , and Xavier was finally on its way.

Marshall’s clutch 3 tied it in regulation, and he made a pair of free throws in overtime Tuesday night as Xavier overcame poor shooting and rallied for a 63-58 victory over Missouri.

The Musketeers (3-0) let a 15-point lead slip away because they couldn’t hit an outside shot, going only 3 of 21 from beyond the arc. Marshall’s 3-pointer — Xavier’s only one in the second half — tied it 51-all with 27.1 seconds left.

When they absolutely had to have a 3, Xavier let its best player shoot away.

“I knew it was going in,” guard Paul Scruggs said. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Missouri (2-1) missed a 3 at the end of regulation and never led in overtime, losing to a ranked team for the seventh time in a row. Dru Smith led the Tigers with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

Scruggs hit a pair of baskets in overtime as Xavier built a seven-point lead and held on. Quentin Goodin made three free throws in the final 20 seconds to close it out.

Marshall’s big shot made it possible. He finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and a team-high three assists.

“He’s talented, he’s skilled, he has size, he made the big shot at the end of regulation,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Any time you have a guy with that skill package that you can run your offense through, he’s tough to guard.”

Missouri had a setback in the opening minutes. Top scorer Jeremiah Tilmon picked up two fouls in the first 2:56 and spent the rest of the half on the bench. He finished with six points.

“It was depressing,” said Xavier Pinson, who had nine points.

Xavier led by as many as 15 in a ragged first half. Missouri went eight minutes between field goals and had 13 turnovers, but Xavier couldn’t take full advantage because of its woeful outside shooting. Goodin’s steal and dunk capped an 11-2 spurt that gave Xavier its biggest lead, 27-12.

Tilmon had a layup and Smith scored twice off drives to the basket during a 14-point run that gave Missouri a 38-34 lead, its first since the opening minutes. Xavier went more than seven minutes without scoring while the Tigers rallied .

“That’s what we call a rock fight,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, it was going to be ugly at times, but I was really proud of our guys for handling the adversity we went through.”

BIG PICTURE

Missouri: The Tigers’ tough times against ranked teams continue. They haven’t beaten a Top 25 team since Feb. 13, 2018, when they defeated No. 21 Texas A&M 62-58.

Xavier: The Musketeers have struggled to hit 3s — an issue last season as well. They are only 13 of 63 on 3-pointers this season.

“We had some wide-open looks,” Steele said. “We’ll take those shots.”

POINTS TOUGH TO COME BY

Last season, Xavier lost at Missouri 71-56, the Musketeers’ second-fewest points of the season. They managed 51 in regulation Tuesday.

SCRUGGS BACK

Scruggs sat out the previous game with a sprained knee, costing the Musketeers one of their top guards. He started Tuesday, played 40 minutes and scored 12 points.

CARTER IMPRESSES

Xavier transfer forward Jason Carter played 38 minutes and had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Missouri hosts Wofford on Monday and Morehead State two days later as part of the 2019 Hall of Fame Classic.

Xavier hosts Missouri State on Friday, completing a four-game homestand to open the season.

Robinson-Earl spurs No. 10 Villanova past Army in opener

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VILLANOVA, Pa. — Jeremiah Robinson-Earl became one of the handful of Villanova freshmen to start an opener in 19 seasons under Jay Wright.

Inexperienced? Perhaps.

Sensational? Absolutely.

Robinson-Earl led a new-look Villanova to a familiar rout, with 24 points and 13 rebounds in the No. 10 Wildcats’ 97-54 win over Army on Tuesday night.

“I can’t say I was surprised,” Wright said. “I’m impressed with his maturity and his basketball IQ.”

Robinson-Earl was considered one of the top 15 recruits in the nation and is the son of former Kansas Jayhawk Lester Earl. The Kansas native finished his prep career at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Robinson-Earl made 9 of 14 shots (with five turnovers) and proved Wright was correct in giving the hyped freshman the start.

“I wasn’t really thinking about how I did,” Robinson-Earl said.

He certainly gave Army plenty to worry about.

The Wildcats had their five-year run as the preseason Big East favorite end this season but outranked Seton Hall by two spots in the Top 25. Villanova played like a team worthy of national championship contention against overwhelmed Army.

These aren’t the Wildcats that were 30-win regulars and won national titles in 2016 and 2018. Most of the stars of those teams have moved on to the NBA — rookie Eric Paschall scored 34 points for Golden State on Monday — and the Wildcats have one of the youngest teams in Wright’s 19 seasons. The Wildcats lost their two leading scorers from last season in Paschall and Phil Booth, and the underclassmen are being counted on to carry them into March. Justin Moore and Robinson-Earl gave Villanova two freshman in the starting lineup for the first time since 2002-03.

Robinson-Earl, the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year, was sensational in his debut and scored 15 points by the break. The Wildcats treated this one like a glorified scrimmage, but they played with a dose of ruthless aggression that should overcome any concerns over inexperience. They went on a 16-0 run in the first half, raced to a 31-point lead and led 49-26 at the break.

The Wildcats had two freshman start opening night for the first time since Allan Ray, who was at the game, and Randy Foye in 2002. The Wildcats were still in their formative years of becoming an elite program under Wright when Ray and Foye were starters. Robinson-Earl and Moore got the nods for a perennial Big East contender.

“It’s different starting these two because everyone in the program knows what they’re doing,” Wright said. “They have some guys around them.”

Villanova finished at the basket, buried 3s and shared the ball (12 assists on 18 first-half baskets) in a fantastic opener for the program’s 100th season. Cole Swider scored 18 points and hit four of Villanova’s 12 3-pointers. Saddiq Bey had 22 points.

Bobby Knight coached Army on March 19, 1966, in the consolation game of the NIT the last time these two teams met. The Black Knights could have gone another 53 years without having to play the Wildcats. Tommy Funk and Tucker Blackwell led Army with 15 points.

BIG PICTURE

Army: Closed the first half on a 10-3 run. … Better days should be ahead for the Black Knights, picked to finish sixth in Patriot League preseason poll. Army has either played to or exceeded its preseason predicted finish in each of the last four seasons. … Shot 31% from the floor.

Villanova: Collin Gillespie scored 11 points and played with a protective mask to protect a broken nose suffered in practice. … The Wildcats have started 10 freshmen on opening night since 2002.

UP NEXT

Army: Plays Friday against the Merchant Marine Academy.

Wildcats: At No. 18 Ohio State on Nov. 13.

Jones, Marshall lead No. 19 Xavier past Jacksonville 76-57

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CINCINNATI — It’s easy to see why Xavier has some lofty aspirations this season, even if the Musketeers are just beginning to work out the kinks.

Tyrique Jones had 17 points and 11 rebounds, Naji Marshall also scored 17 and No. 19 Xavier beat Jacksonville 76-57 on Tuesday night.

Defense is expected to be a strength for the Musketeers, picked to finish third in the Big East Conference preseason coaches’ poll, and that was evident in the season opener.

“As a team, we’re very good on the defensive end,” Marshall said. “It’s not just one person. It’s the whole team.”

Xavier forced 13 turnovers in the first half and 18 overall while limiting the Dolphins to 5-of-21 shooting from 3-point range.

“We have the chance to be an elite defensive team,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said. “That’s got to be our identity. It’s got to be who we are. If we do that, we have a chance to be a successful team this year.”

Paul Scruggs scored all 12 of his points in the first half, including a pair of 3-pointers, to help the Musketeers build a 21-point lead at the break. Bryce Moore’s 3 off an assist from Scruggs put Xavier ahead 41-22 late in the half.

But the Musketeers took their foot off the gas late in the second half. And with 4:28 remaining and Xavier up by 17, Steele called a timeout and angrily addressed his team.

Xavier led by as many as 30 points, but was outscored 35-33 in the second half.

“Our guys need to learn to play 40 minutes,” Steele said, “not just 25 or 26.”

It was a sloppy performance at times for the Musketeers, who return four starters from last year’s NIT team. Xavier committed 11 turnovers, shot 58% from the free throw line and 17% from 3-point range.

“We’re a much better shooting team than 4 for 23,” Steele said. “When we take good shots.”

Aamahne Santos and Bryce Workman each had 15 points for Jacksonville.

“Obviously, we’re playing against a team that has a lot of accolades early in the year,” Jacksonville coach Tony Jasick said. “I think we settled in a little bit. We finished some possessions defensively in the second half. We can take a handful of good things out of this game.”

BIG PICTURE

Jacksonville hasn’t defeated a Top 25 opponent since beating No. 20 Florida 71-68 in overtime on Dec 20, 2010.

Xavier has won 30 straight openers dating to a 97-90 loss to Southern Utah State on Dec. 2, 1989.

BIG DEBUT

Xavier freshman Zach Freemantle electrified the crowd in the first half with a two-handed dunk in transition off a pass from Marshall for his first career points. Freemantle, a 6-foot-9 forward, had 11 points and five rebounds in 19 minutes. “He’s going to be really good for this team,” Jones said. “Can’t wait to see what else he brings to the team.”

DOUBLE-DOUBLE

Jones recorded his 12th career double-double. With no Jacksonville player able to body him up, the senior forward finished 7 for 8 from the field. “He makes the game really easy,” Marshall said. “Just get the ball down to Tyrique and let him do his thing.” Jones had 10 double-doubles last season.

UP NEXT

Jacksonville hosts Johnson (FL) on Friday.

Xavier hosts Siena on Friday.

Powell scores 27, leads No. 12 Seton Hall past Wagner 105-71

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — Seton Hall cruised to victory in the absence of coach Kevin Willard. Star guard Myles Powell is looking forward to getting his mentor back.

Powell scored 27 points to lead No. 12 Seton Hall to a 105-71 win over Wagner on Tuesday night, without Willard on the sidelines.

“You guys see how good we can be at the end of the year last year and we’re just trying to keep that train rolling so it starts with me and coach Willard as the head guys of coach being head coach and me being a leader,” Powell said. “So like I said, we’re going to come back watch film and see how we can get better. Seventy-one points, I mean, that’s a lot of points and I know coach, the first thing coach is going to notice.”

Seton Hall announced a week ago that the NCAA is investigating the program and Willard would be sitting out two games in what has to be considered a suspension. The school didn’t say what the NCAA enforcement staff was investigating, but said it was working with the ruling body for college sports.

The Asbury Park Press reported the investigation involved transfer tampering, and the New York Post said it involved the transfer of Taurean Thompson from Syracuse in the fall of 2017.

After sitting out a year, Thompson played in 27 games last season.

Quincy McKnight added 10 points and seven assists for Seton Hall.

Patrick Szpir led Wagner with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Alex Morales finished with 13 points.

Seton Hall said Willard would miss the team’s Oct. 29 exhibition and the Wagner game. Assistant coach Grant Billmeier ran the team in Willard’s absence.

“The only way to become a head coach and actually learn what you do well and what you don’t do well is to become a head coach,” Billmeier said. “It was an unbelievable experience for me. I’m glad I got to go through it. I thought our staff was really connecting and I thought the players did a great job today in not having any drop-off.”

Wagner kept the game competitive for much of the first half. Then, Sandro Mamukelashvili, who finished with 11 points, scored on a feed from Anthony Nelson, and Shavor Reynolds followed a steal with a dunk to give Seton Hall a 46-35 lead with 1:41 remaining.

Seton Hall extended its lead to 52-37 and pushed its advantage to as many as 37 points with less than a minute remaining.

“Coach Willard is the one who got it all started — I mean, he’s the head honcho,” Powell said. “Once you get your guy back — I mean, we will definitely be a different team on Saturday.”

BIG PICTURE

Wagner: The Seawolves have been built into a solid program under seventh-year coach Bashir Mason. The two-time NEC Coach of the Year has won the NEC regular season title two of the last four seasons, resulting in NIT bids. Wagner lost in the NEC title game in 2016 and 2018.

Seton Hall: The Pirates are looking to reach the postseason for the fifth straight year behind the Big East Preseason Player of the Year in Powell. With 88 percent of their scoring returning from last season, the Pirates are ranked the highest in the AP poll since being No. 11 on Jan. 2, 2001, making this one of the most anticipated seasons in program history.

BLOCK PARTY

Big man Ike Obiagu had three blocks in his Seton Hall debut. The 7-foot-2 sophomore sat out last year after transferring from Florida State, where he averaged 2.1 blocks per game. He also had 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting and four rebounds.

UP NEXT

Wagner: At Penn State on Saturday.

Seton Hall: Hosts Stony Brook on Saturday.

Report: Big East votes to invite UConn to rejoin

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WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The presidents of the schools in the Big East voted Monday to extend an invitation to UConn to rejoin the conference for basketball and other sports.

A person with firsthand knowledge confirmed to The Associated Press that the schools’ presidents voted by conference call on Monday morning. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

UConn has a Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for Wednesday when it is expected to accept the invitation, and an announcement is expected from the Big East as early as Thursday morning.

“I know a little bit about the back and forth on it. I think it could be a great thing for the state,” Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told reporters at an unrelated news conference Monday. “Let’s face it, UConn, in particular UConn basketball, we can compete with anybody. We’re ready to take on the very best. Let’s see how the negotiations go.”

The result of the vote was first reported Monday by CBS Sports.

UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma cautioned that the expected move doesn’t mean a return to the glory days of the old Big East.

The Hall of Fame coach, speaking to reporters at a charity golf event, noted the conference is not the same one that once included schools such as Notre Dame and Louisville.

“It’s like saying you’re moving back to your hometown, but the block that you lived on and half the city is gone,” he said. “It’s not the same.”

Auriemma said his team’s success has never depended on what conference it is in, and he doesn’t see that changing.

The UConn women have never lost to an American Athletic Conference opponent, going 120-0 in the regular season and six conference tournaments.

The conference bylaws require UConn to pay a $10 million withdrawal fee and give 27 months’ notice before leaving. But terms of the departure were still being negotiated on Monday.

UConn is expected to spend at least another season in the AAC before it moves, and junior Megan Walker said keeping that spotless record intact will be a priority. She said the Huskies understand the league’s other teams now have even more motivation to beat them.

“Ever since I got to the University of Connecticut, we’ve always been the black hats, the bad guys,” she said. “I enjoy it. If we didn’t want that challenge, we wouldn’t be here at this university. I’m excited to leave the conference or whatever. Whatever conference we are in, I’m excited to play.”

Trading trips to Tulsa and Tulane for games at St. John’s and Villanova, Auriemma acknowledged, would help the school when it comes to finances and selling fan interest. UConn currently is dealing with a deficit in its athletic division of more than $40 million.

Auriemma said he’s not sure what the move means for the future of UConn’s football program. But the coach said he can foresee a day when all schools, not just UConn, have multiple conference affiliations based on what is best for each sport. UConn already plays hockey in Hockey East and has retained its Big East membership in field hockey and lacrosse.

Auriemma also challenged UConn fans, many of whom he noted have been calling for the Huskies to rejoin the Big East for six years, to back up their preference by attending more games.

“So, if this does happen, there better be 16,000 at the XL Center every night,” he said.

LJ Figueroa staying at St. John’s

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St. John’s received some positive news on Wednesday as LJ Figueroa decided to return to the program after exploring transfer options.

Hitting the transfer portal after the departure of previous head coach Chris Mullin, Figueroa will be able to play next season instead of sitting a transfer year.

By staying with the Red Storm, the 6-foot-6 Figueroa gives St. John’s a proven two-way wing and double-figure scorer for new head coach Mike Anderson. Figueroa averaged 14.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game last season — his first with the school — as he shot 51 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three-point range.

St. John’s has a chance to be solid with Figueroa returning next season but they’ll have to figure out how to plug a few roster questions — most notably replacing point guard Shamorie Ponds. The return of Figueroa at least gives the Red Storm an all-conference threat who helps them in multiple ways.