Colby Jones, Paul Scruggs lead Xavier to road win over Oklahoma State

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STILLWATER – Travis Steele likes to refer to Colby Jones as a swiss army knife.

Sunday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena it was clear why.

Jones was everywhere and doing everything required for Xavier to beat Oklahoma State, 77-71, in the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

Trailing 48-45 in the second half, Jones helped spark a 13-2 Xavier run that completely turned the game in Xavier's favor.

"He's just so versatile," Steele said of Jones. "He's a player that just naturally has a lot of poise. And sometimes he doesn't always show a lot of emotion. He's always playing hard, though. He's just smooth. And when you have a guy his height who can handle the ball and make decisions the way he does, he's just got a nose for the ball and he just rebounds."

Dec 5, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Xavier Musketeers guard Paul Scruggs (1) fights for position against Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Bryce Thompson (1) during the first half at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Dec 5, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Xavier Musketeers guard Paul Scruggs (1) fights for position against Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Bryce Thompson (1) during the first half at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Play after play, Jones made his presence felt. Whether it was crucial assists, steals, stops on defense, rebounds or points when necessary, the 6-foot-6 sophomore enlivened his team.

"He's just calm in the middle of the storm," Steele said of Jones, who finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and one turnover. "He just does his job."

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Jones went 6-of-10 from the field and his seven offensive rebounds helped Xavier score 12 second-chance points.

Paul Scruggs led Xavier with 19 points, which was needed in a game that was largely back and forth for the first 30 minutes.

Xavier trailed 39-35 at halftime and the Cowboys shot 55% from the field in the first half. Steele said Oklahoma State was dominating the paint and the Musketeers were struggling to deal with the Cowboys' high ball screen pick-and-roll.

Scruggs said the halftime adjustment was "to be more aggressive on defense. Obviously, we were down at half and that was a big emphasis coming out of halftime was just be more aggressive, be the tougher team."

In the second half, Xavier went to its two-three zone. It was the first time this season Xavier's gone zone, said Steele, though they practice it every day. Steele wanted to save it for the second half and it worked. Oklahoma State shot 31% in the second half and Xavier outscored the Cowboys 42-32.

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"We switched up defenses in the second half a little bit," said Steele. "I saved our two-three zone for the second half, kind of later into the game. We had it in our back pocket. I thought they were dominating us around the rim early on in the first half, they were driving us, hitting the roller at the rim on pick and rolls, they were posting the ball way too easy and they dominated the game in the first half.

"So we made the adjustment. We switched a little more one through five on ball-screen coverages to help get rid of that roll. We also went a lot more two-three zone as well depending on who was in the game for us, and I thought that threw them out of rhythm on that end."

Offensively, Steele said they played with more poise.

"We had about six turnovers in a small stretch there in the first half ... we were up at that point and they got back in the game real quick and they're a team that can do that, they go on big runs because of the way that they play," said Steele. "I thought second half we did a much better job taking care of the ball, staying poised. Colby Jones, Paul and Dwon (Odom), those guys were tremendous. They were picking up full-court dang near every possession, making things really hard on our guys."

Xavier had 10 turnovers in the first half and finished with 17.

With the win, Xavier improved to 7-1 and the Musketeers are headed home for a four-game homestand.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Xavier beats Oklahoma State in Big East-Big 12 Battle

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