Paul Scruggs saved the best for last.
In the final home game of his Xavier career, Scruggs and company secured a season-saving win, 77-69, over No. 13 Creighton on Saturday night at Cintas Center.
"Paul, you could just tell he wasn't gonna let our team lose today," said Xavier coach Travis Steele. "He had that look from start to finish."
On Senior Night, Scruggs scored 12 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and added seven rebounds and five assists.
Scruggs said he told his teammates, "Let's go out there with no regrets, and let's just have fun. That's what we did."
For the first time in a long time, the Musketeers looked like a team ready for the fight and it showed with the most complete performance of the season.
"Our team had a different vibe to it today, it just did, "said Steele.
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Xavier (13-5, 6-5), wearing throwback uniforms fitted with gold trim, dictated everything that happened on Saturday night. The Musketeers started strong and finished stronger. Xavier won the rebound battle (36-32), defended for 40 minutes, and shared the basketball (22 assists on 32 made field goals).
Creighton (17-6, 13-5) didn't have an off night, either. Xavier gave the Bluejays fits at both ends and even when Creighton made a late run, the Musketeers had a response.
Maybe most importantly, though, everyone who touched the floor for Xavier impacted winning. There were no holes in the rotation and no questions left unanswered.
"We need everybody," said Steele. "When you lose a guy like Nate (Johnson, who's out for the rest of the season), who's a tremendous player, who's been really good for us all year, we need guys to step up.
"Gotta put your big-boy pants on and gotta be good on both ends, not just one end. And I thought everybody on our team, everybody, positively impacted our team on both ends of the floor tonight and that's against one of the best offensive teams in the entire country."
Xavier led 33-31 at halftime and the Musketeers stormed out of the locker room for the second half like madmen, quickly building a 43-33 lead off the scoring of Scruggs and freshman Colby Jones, who only scored six points but was plus-25 for the game, which means when Jones was on the floor, Xavier outscored Creighton by 25 points.
The Musketeers kept a nice cushion between them and Creighton for most of the second half but it got tense late when the Bluejays cut Xavier's lead to 67-63 with 3:45 left.
That's when Dwon Odom stepped into a deep jump shot in the corner from just inside the 3-point line and knocked it down. After a 3-pointer from Mitch Ballock made it 69-66 with 2:23 to play, it was a heads-up drive and finish from Adam Kunkel that kept Creighton from closing the gap.
Odom followed up Kunkel's finish with a steal and another lay-in that made it 73-66 with 1:09 to play. Kunkel scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half. Odom, who was sensational at both ends, finished with a career-high 12 points, four assists, three rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Sophomore Zach Freemantle added 17 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth consecutive double-double.
It was a win that keeps Xavier's NCAA Tournament hopes alive, and it was also a reminder of what this team is capable of when they play together.
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But the biggest thing that was evident on Saturday night was Xavier looked like it was having fun again on a basketball court and it had been some time since that was the case.
"I kind of just told our guys you gotta go back to when you were in third grade or ... fourth grade," said Steele. "Go back, why did you start playing basketball? Sometimes, you create this block in you head and you put so much pressure on yourself and it's like just play free, enjoy the moment, have fun. You know, be where your feet are, live in the moment. Don't worry about what's next, what's to come or what people think. None of that matters at the end of the day, what matters is what our mindset is towards that. When you starting thinking about yourself less that's when you start to find happiness."