After having a lead late the Men’s Basketball team couldn’t finish and lost to Xavier University 77-74, a scenario Red Storm fans have become familiar with this season.
The Musketeers came into Madison Square Garden on President’s Day with a 10-game winning streak against the Red Storm. On the other hand, the Red Storm were riding a three-game losing streak at the arena, and looking to win back-to-back games in conference play for the first time after defeating Providence on Feb. 12.
The Red Storm got off to a slow start as they spent most of the first four minutes without a field goal and their only point being a free throw from Rasheem Dunn. They then picked up the pace and were eventually forcing the Musketeers into turnovers, totaling nine forced turnovers in the first half alone.
The star of the first half for the Red Storm was graduate transfer Nick Rutherford from Indianapolis, Ind. Rutherford finished the first half with 14 points, that led both teams, and also contributed three assists and three rebounds. Rutherford also averages 1.9 steals a game, good enough for 3rd in the Big East, and he totaled two in the first half.
The Musketeers were able to edge out the Red Storm in the first half due to Paul Scruggs, Tyrique Jones, and Jason Carter. They led the way in points for the Musketeers with 10, seven and seven, respectively.
With the second half beginning, the Red Storm, like almost all of their games in conference play, were right in the thick of it. Marcellus Earlington was the biggest factor for the Red Storm in the second half. After scoring only two points in the first half, Earlington ended up tied with Dunn for the game’s scoring leader with 17. The biggest lead the Red Storm were able to obtain was 68-61 lead with just under eight minutes left in the second half. This came after a steal from Marcellus Earlington, which he was able to run down the length of the court and finish to send the Garden crowd to its feet.
The Musketeers were able to fight back to get the score down to 74-73 with the Red Storm ahead and the ball with 39 seconds left. After Naji Marshall turned the ball over and the Musketeers were forced to foul, the Red Storm were sitting pretty with 25 seconds left in the game. All they had to do was not miss their free throws. On a one-and-one opportunity, Rasheem Dunn failed to sink the free throw, giving Marshall a chance to recover the rebound.
Just like that, Xavier had the opportunity to answer. With 10 seconds left Zach Freemantle was able to sink a layup and give the Musketeers a one-point lead.
After a missed shot by Figueroa, which led to a quick foul by the Red Storm and two made free-throws by Xavier that put them up by three, the Red Storm called a timeout with one second remaining. Mike Anderson drew up a play for Nick Rutherford to shoot a three from the elbow that would end up being blocked by Kyky Tandy. The final score: 77-74. The heartbreak in the stands: immeasurable.
“The little things, they add up,” Head Coach Mike Anderson said after the game. “This is the process that we need to go through, learning how to win. Every game in the Big East will come down to the wire.”
The Red Storm will look to get back in the win column Sunday afternoon against the 16th ranked Seton Hall Pirates at the Prudential Center.