CINCINNATI (AP) — Paul Scruggs found out shortly before the opening tip that Xavier would be missing its point guard. He moved into the role and had a career night.
The sophomore scored 21 points and set career highs with eight assists and four steals Wednesday night, steadying Xavier’s illness-depleted lineup to its fourth straight victory, 82-61 over Ohio.
The Musketeers (6-3) were missing point guard Quentin Goodin, who missed practice this week because of illness. Scruggs took over, played 31 minutes and made Xavier’s biggest plays as it pulled away in the second half.
“I knew for sure probably an hour and a half before the game started,” Scruggs said. “It was like even without Q, we’ve got to execute plays and play good on defense.”
Coach Travis Steele said Goodin has been sick for at least three days.
“Proud of our group for sticking together through some adversity and going on the late run,” Steele said. “Really proud of Paul Scruggs for stepping up with Q being out tonight. I thought he did a great job for us just being in command.”
Naji Marshall had 15 points and a team-high seven rebounds, and Tyrique Jones added 15 points for Xavier, which went 16 of 22 from the field in the second half. Jones took a charge, went down hard, held his head for several minutes and was helped off the court with 2:11 left.
“He just bumped his head,” said Scruggs, who talked to Jones after the game. “He’s doing fine.”
Ohio (5-3) fell behind by 13 points at the outset before rallying and turning it into a back-and-forth game. Scruggs had a pair of baskets and a free throw during a 9-1 run that put the Musketeers ahead 65-55 with seven minutes left.
“From there we were playing catch-up,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. “You’re down 10 and taking quicker shots rather than moving the ball well like we were doing early in the game.”
Jason Carter led Ohio with 17 points. The Bobcats struggled when Xavier switched from man-to-man defense to zone to start its late rally.
“We showed some potential,” Phillips said. “We were right in the game when we had three consecutive turnovers against their zone. That was really the turning point.”
It was Xavier’s second game against a Mid-American Conference team in the last eight days. The Musketeers beat Miami of Ohio 82-55 at the Cintas Center last Wednesday.
Xavier opened the game by making seven of its first nine shots — four of them from beyond the arc — and pulling out to an 18-5 lead . Carter had a pair of baskets and two free throws during a 14-2 run that gave Ohio its first lead 32-29.
It was back-and-forth until Xavier’s decisive run led by Scruggs.
Ohio: The Bobcats were playing their first road game. They had two games in the Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic and lost to South Florida and Loyola Marymount.
Xavier: The Musketeers are trying to get through an illness that spread through the team. In addition to Goodin, forward Zach Hankins missed practice on Tuesday, leaving Steele unsure who would be available against the Bobcats or how much they’d be able to play. Hankins played 11 minutes and had two points.
GET THE BALL
The Bobcats are second in the Mid-American Conference in rebounding, but Xavier had a 33-23 edge on the boards. The Bobcats have been outrebounded in all three of their losses.
Xavier has won 10 straight and 18 of its last 19 games against Mid-American Conference teams.
The Bobcats lead the all-time series 20-15. They hadn’t played since Dec. 10, 2008, when Xavier won 78-65.
MARSHALL AT THE POINT
Marshall, a forward, wound up handling the ball after Scruggs picked up his fourth foul with 6:55 to go and headed to the bench.
“I’m very comfortable,” Marshall said. “At the end of the day, it’s just basketball.”
Ohio hosts Radford on Saturday.
Xavier plays at crosstown rival Cincinnati on Saturday. The Musketeers have won eight of 11 in the series, including an 89-76 win last December on Xavier’s campus.
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