In the 2nd of 5 consecutive home games to start the season, the Xavier Musketeers escaped with a 67-63 win over the visiting Tennessee Volunteers, despite some drama down the stretch,
The game plan was clear from the beginning as Semaj Christon, Erik Stenger, Isaiah Philmore, and Matt Stainbrook all attacked Tennessee big man Jarnell Stokes for buckets down low to take an 8-3 lead at the first media timeout.
Out of the media timeout, Christon once again attacked the rim off a hestitation move to extend the lead to 10-3. On the very next Tennessee possession, Stokes picked up his second foul at the 14:33 mark.
With Stokes out, Xavier was able to force 3 straight turnovers, but were unable to capitalize as they had turnover problems themselves and missed several open looks down low. The one constant, however, continued to be the defense of X as they limited Tennessee to just 3 points at the 11:50 mark and under 12 media timeout.
Both teams continued the sloppy play out of the media timeout with back to back offensive fouls. It wasn't until the 11:02 mark that either team scored again, as Myles Davis got a put back off a Matt Stainbrook miss to entend the X lead to 12-3.
A Semaj Christon and one extended the lead to 14-4 but Tennessee guard Jordan McCrae would go on a 5-0 run by himself to get the Vols back in the game and down 5 at 14-9.
The always cool and calm Stainbrook responded with a dunk and one but much like the Christon play seconds before, was unable to convert at the line. At the under 8 media timeout, the X men had a 7 point lead at 16-9 with the aforementioned Stainbrook and Christon combining for 10 of those 16 points. Stainbrook finished the game with 12 pts and 9 rebounds.
Erik Stenger would then use a nice up and under move in traffic to extend the lead back to 9 at 18-9 as the Muskies would benefit from 6 straight missed free throws by the Vols.
Tennessee wouldn't get on the board again until the 4:51 mark with an and one by AJ Davis. Isaiah Philmore responded a the other end down low, however, to extend the X lead back to 10 at 21-11 and give them their 18th point in the paint with 4:06 to play in the first half. Philmore would go on to finish with 8 points, 6 rebounds.
Jordan McCrae scored 5 of the next 8 points to pull Tennessee to within 5 with under a minute to play in the first half. McCrae would finish with 13 first half points, but Xavier still held a 27-20 lead at the half as Myles Davis hit a big 3 with time winding down to conclude the first half.
Despite the sloppy first half, X managed to finish 12-29 from the field compared to 8-30 for Tennessee who also finished 1-9 from outside and 3-12 from the charity stripe. Tennessee was able to stay within striking distance by forcing 12 Xavier turnovers.
The second half started with a Brandon Randolph jumper to extend the Xavier lead to 29-20 but Josh Richardson of Tennessee would score 8 of the next 12 points, including two 3 pointers, to close the gap to 33-28 with 16:47 to play.
As he did to start the half, Randolph responded with a bucket to extend the lead back to 7 which was followed up by a Tennessee turnover. Just before the under 16 media timeout, Maymon picked up his 3rd foul for the Vols.
Out of the media timeout, it was once again Semaj Christon with another big bucket to put Xavier back up 9. A Jarnell Stokes dunk and back to back steals and lay ups by Antonio Barton and Armani Moore would close the gap to 39-34 but just as he did out of the media timeout, Christon came up with a clutch jumper to extend the lead back to 5 at 39-34 with 13:24 to play.
Back to back three's by Antonio Barton, a Memphis transfer, pulled the Vols to 42-39 after a Myles Davis 3 but back to back baskets down low by James Farr extended the lead back to 7 at 46-39 with 10:36 to play in the second half.
Barton continued his hot shooting with another 3 out of the media timeout, to give him 9 in the second half and once again pull his team back to within 4 at 46-42.
Stainbrook and Stokes traded baskets on back to back possessions, going right at eachother and at the under 8 media timeout it was a 48-44 game in favor of the good guys.
Semaj Christon and Matt Stainbrook baskets down low extended the lead back to 8 at 52-44, with Stainbrook's basket coming after being blocked by Stokes on 3 consecutive attempts.
Maymon closed the gap back to 6 but a Stenger and one would send Stokes back to the bench with under 6 to play and Xavier up 54-46. Stenger's hustle at both ends ended up playing a huge role after Philmore went out with an arm injury. Stenger would finish with 7 points, 7 rebounds for the game.
After struggling at the free throw line early in the game, it was the free throw shooting of Philmore and Christon that would give X a 57-48 lead heading in to the final media timeout.
Xavier was able to limit Tennessee guard Jordan McCrae to just 2 points in the second half - on two free throws with 3:51 left-, while also limiting his touches and looks.
Throughout the second half Semaj Christon was able to come up with big basket after big basket to halt Tennessee runs and keep them from gaining any momentum. The sophomore guard would finish with 18 points on 7-13 shooting while pulling down 3 rebounds, but free throw shooting was once again a problem as he finished 4-10.
With Jarnell Stokes fouling out at the 2:41 mark with 4 points, 4 rebounds, Tennessee had to start settling for jumpers. A Josh Richardson 3 cut the Xavier lead to 4 at 61-57 with 45 seconds left.
Missed free throws would then pay off for Tennessee as both Brandon Randolph and Myles Davis made 1 of 2 free throws setting the stage for a Jordan McCrae 3 to to pull the Vols to within 63-60 with :19 seconds left.
Redeeming himself from the previous missed free throw, Myles Davis calmly sank two free throws to extend the lead back to 5 at 65-60.
McCrae wasn't finished just yet though as his second 3 in 11 seconds and 23rd point of the night closed the gap to 2 at 65-63 to cap a 13-2 Tennessee run with :06.1 seconds left.
Tennessee had a chance at a turnover with 5 seconds left but fumbled the ball out of bounds right in front of their bench. The missed opportunity led to two Myles Davis free throws with :04.5 seconds left to seal the 67-63 win for the Muskies.
For the game, Xavier finished 13-24 from the charity stripe and 26-54 from the field, while Tennessee was 24-57 from the field and 9-19 at the free throw line.
Xavier won both battles around the rim with a 44-32 points in the paint advantage and 40-34 rebounding advantage.
Jordan McCrae, Josh Richardson, and Antonio Barton all three reached double digit points for the Vols with 23, 13, and 10 points, respectively.
At the end of the night, it was the play of Myles Davis down the stretch that ultimately decided the fate of the Musketeers. Davis finished with 8 of his 13 points in the final 12:50 of the game after Tennessee had closed to within 5 at 42-37.
The Musketeers will be in action again Friday night at 8:00 against the Morehead State Eagles.