Cincinnati — Xavier still is learning under first-year head coach Travis Steele, and maintaining defensive intensity for 40 minutes is something he continues to hammer home.
On Saturday afternoon in Cintas Center, Naji Marshall scored 14 points and Tyrique Jones, Ryan Welage and Zach Hankins each scored 11 lifting the Musketeers past Oakland 73-63.
Xavier Hill-Mais scored 22 of his team-leading 30 points in the first half. Braden Norris added 14 points for underdog Oakland which was within three points late in the second half.
“Our defensive effort needs to be a lot better,” Steele said. “We’ve got to fix it. I told our guys in the locker room, we put 40 minutes together one time this year, against Miami (OH). That’s not going to work.”
Oakland (3-5) made three of its first four three-point attempts to build an 11-4 lead. The Grizzlies finished the game 11 of 28 from distance.
“We threw some stuff at them that confused them,” said Oakland head coach Greg Kampe. “When it counted, they made the plays they needed to make.”
The Musketeers (5-3) had no answer for Hill-Mais in the first half. But limited him to only six shot attempts after halftime. It was his third time scoring 30 or more points this season.
“I thought Hill-Mais’ catches were tougher in the second half,” Steele said. “I thought the effort level just wasn’t good enough in the first half.”
The Musketeers turned up their defensive intensity coming out of halftime. Paul Scruggs had two steals which resulted in layups helping them build an 11-point lead. He scored 10 points.
“Our intensity on the defensive end picked up,” said Marshall. “But we have to put 40 minutes together to be the team we can be. There’s no excuse for it, we just have to get it done.”
The Grizzlies got hot again from the perimeter. Karmari Newman’s third 3-pointer cut Xavier’s lead to 53-50 with 12:42 left.
Scruggs picked up his fourth foul with 8:32 left limiting the Musketeers’ defense. He fouled out with two minutes left.
It was still a two-possession game when Welage hit a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left to seal the win for Xavier.
“I don’t think we saw any progress going from the Miami game (on Wednesday) to today,” Steele said. “That’s disappointing.”
The Grizzlies still are looking for more scoring production outside of Hill-Mais and Norris who score more than half of their points through eight games. They combined for 44 of the Grizzlies’ 63 points on Saturday.
The Musketeers who blew a 19-point lead in a loss to San Diego State in the Maui Classic earlier this month, nearly blew an 11-point lead in the second half on Saturday when Oakland rallied to within three.
Xavier was without sophomore guard Elias Harden on Saturday due to illness. Harden is 8 of 17 from three-point range making him a valuable option off the bench. He is expected to return to practice on Monday.
The Musketeers prepared to guard Norris but he still went 4 of 6 from three-point range on Saturday to improve to 19 of 24 for the season.
“We left him open for rhythm threes,” said Steele. “It happened first play of the game. He’s an elite level shooter. You have to be there on the catch. When you give guys like that good looks early, they gain confidence.”
While Oakland got most of its points from Hill-Mais and Norris, the Musketeers had six players in double-figures. Kyle Castlin, a grad transfer from Columbia, scored 10 points for the first double-figure scoring game of his Xavier career. It’s the first time Xavier has had six players in double-figures since Jan. 13, 2018 against Creighton.
Oakland plays at Fairfield on Thursday.
More state men
(At) Akron 71, Detroit Mercy 59: Jimond Ivey scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Akron notched its third straight win. Ivey was 10 of 12 from the field and made all four of his free throws for the Zips (6-2). Daniel Utomi added 13 points and seven rebounds and Channel Banks had 10 points and five rebounds.
Akron shot 43 percent from the field compared to 30 percent for Detroit Mercy.
The teams were locked 25-25 at the break and battled back and forth early in the second half until a Banks 3-point play sparked a 14-2 run featuring an Emmanuel Olojakpoke dunk and an Ivey 3-pointer that put the Zips on top 53-42 with 6:05 to go. A layup by Ivey gave Akron its biggest lead, 66-51, with 1:38 left.
Antoine Davis scored 27 points to lead the Titans (3-5). Josh McFolley added 19.
South Carolina Upstate 71, (at) Western Michigan 66: Deion Holmes scored 25 points and South Carolina Upstate snapped a five-game skid, beating Western Michigan.
Holmes was 10 of 16 from the field including four from long range for the Spartans (2-6). Malik Moore added 18 points with 10 rebounds, two blocks and four steals and Brandon Martin had 16 points.
South Carolina Upstate shot 47 percent from the field overall compared to 35 percent for Western Michigan, which made 21 attempts from 3-point range but made only three of them (14 percent).
The teams were tied 30-all at the break and the Spartans fell behind early in the second half to trail 48-39 before a Holmes 3-pointer sparked a 13-5 run to close to 53-52 with 7:02 to play. A Moore dunk and a 3-pointer by Holmes helped the Spartans take a 63-60 edge with 2:48 left and they held on for the win.
Seth Dugan scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Broncos (4-4).
(At) Northeastern 81, Eastern Michigan 67: Jordan Roland scored 24 points, Donnell Gresham added 21 with four assists and Northeastern pulled away in the second half to beat Eastern Michigan in the first meeting of the teams.
Anthony Green scored 13 with nine rebounds and Tomas Murphy added 10 points with seven assists for the Huskies (4-4), who made 19 of 25 free throws.
The Huskies led by as many as five before the Eagles’ James Thompson IV tied it at 55 with a jumper. Roland’s go-ahead 3 with 10:52 to play sparked a 15-4 run for an 11-point lead with four minutes to go.
Eastern Michigan led by as many as 14 in the first half but went scoreless for 4:11 while the Huskies closed to 37-34 at halftime after Green’s layup capped an 11-0 run.
Elijah Minnie scored 24 points and Boubacar Toure added 10 for Eastern Michigan (4-5).
Lake Superior State 89, (at) Wayne State 65: Malek Adams fired in 24 points while Jackson Schrameyer added 13 to pace the Lakers (3-3, 1-1 GLIAC), who also received 13 rebounds from Rog Stein. Karim Murray had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his second straight double-double for Wayne State (1-5, 1-1), which shot a season-low 31.7 percent from the field.
State men scores
Grand Valley State 79, (at) Purdue Northwest 62
(At) Ashland 91, Ferris State 88
(At) Northern Michigan 67, Saginaw Valley 59
(At) Northwood 75, Michigan Tech 70
(At) Parkside 76, Davenport 70
Chicago 82, (at) Kalamazoo 72
(At) Evansville 65, Albion 49
Pomona-Pitzer 88, Alma 76
(At) Bradley 73, Oakland 64: Lasha Petra scored 29 points and Chelsea Brackmann added 17 points and 17 rebounds as Bradley (6-0) took advantage 18 second-chance points off 19 offensive rebounds. Kahlaijah Dean posted a career-high 20 points while Taylor Jones had 16 and LaKyesha Stennis 13 for Oakland (2-6).
(At) Wayne State 73, Lake Superior State 59: Ja’Nae Williams poured in 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Warriors (3-4, 1-1 GLIAC), who shot 43 percent (26-of-60) from the floor. Lexie Kohn and Jenna Gregory each had 12 for Lake Superior State (3-4, 0-2).
(At) Illinois 72, Eastern Michigan 66, OT: Alex Wittinger scored seven of her team-leading 22 points in overtime and Ali Andrews, who finished with 19 points, added six in the extra session as the Illini (5-2) outscored the Eagles 13-7 to pull out the victory. Danielle Minott, who sank two free throws with six seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 59, finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds for Eastern (3-2).
State women scores
Ashland 94, (at) Ferris State 60
Northern Michigan 66, (at) Saginaw Valley 52
Michigan Tech 78, (at) Northwood 68
(At) Parkside 69, Davenport 64
Grand Valley State 75, (at) Purdue Northwest 49
Albion 100, (at) Great Lakes Christian 38
Oberlin 71, (at) Kalamazoo 26
Hope 86, (at) Olivet 48
Trine 77, (at) Alma 46
Calvin 62, (at) Saint Mary’s (Ind.) 54