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NIT Final
NIT Logo via The Athletic

2022 NIT Final Recap: Xavier 73-Texas A&M 72

NIT Final
NIT Logo via The Athletic

2022 NIT Final Recap: Texas A&M Xavier

This is Garrett Burroughs reporting from Madison Square Garden, and I will be bringing you a recap of the 2022 NIT Final between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Xavier Musketeers. Xavier is making their ninth all-time appearance in the NIT Tournament, winning back in 1958. For the Aggies, this is their eighth appearance and they are seeking their first postseason tournament win of any kind since 1987 when they won the SEC Tournament. The Aggies are led by Quenton Jackson, their leading scorer averaging 14.6 ppg and having double digits in 20 of his last 21. For the Musketeers, Junior Zach Freemantle is leading this team during the NIT with 14.3 ppg while shooting 59.5% from the field. Texas A&M is coming in as the hotter team, having won 9 of their last 10. But this is March, and anything can happen. This 2022 NIT Final can go either way, and I will be providing updates as the game goes on. I will be updating during timeouts and halftime. With that said, let’s get this 2022 NIT Final recap underway!

First Half:

It appears that Texas A&M travels well. They heavily outnumber Xavier fans here in MSG. Aggies weren’t on the floor for the national anthem, odd. Xavier wins the tip. The first possession for A&M involved a lot of good ball movement, first basket was good. A&M switched to a zone early, which was exposed fast. The A&M game plan appears to be to get the ball into the paint, and often. This Xavier defense is tenacious to start, with two quick steals from players posted up. Xavier shooting well to start, aside from starting the game 0-3 from 3pt. 5-10 otherwise. Poor shooting start for Adam Kunkel. Timeout, 15:57 left 1st half, Xavier 12, Texas A&M 6.

Ethan Henderson for Texas A&M with a quick 3 fouls in the first 5 mins of the game, doubt we see him again this half. It looks like whatever Head Coach Buzz Williams told his team during the first break is working, at least from a defensive standpoint. Aggies playing very aggressively. Aggies still looking to get to the basket, indicated by a nice drive by Obaseki, who looks good so far. 3 point shooting is a struggle for both teams so far, especially Kunkel with two bad misses. Timeout, 11:54 left 1st half, Xavier 17, Texas A&M 10.

Tyrece Radford of Texas A&M not starting this game well, shooting 1-6 so far. The same can be said for Adam Kunkel of Xavier, who is 0-4, including 0-3 from 3pt. Xavier looks to get Kunkel in rhythm, but nothing is falling for the Senior so far. Xavier is showing great ball movement to start this game but is struggling, especially from the paint. Henry Coleman III for the Aggies shows great footwork in getting to the basket with a pretty finish. Colby Jones for Xavier has played well so far, driving into the paint and drawing another Aggies foul. He has 7 so far to lead all scorers. Scratch that, Jones takes a pass and drives, finishing with a beauty of a layup. Jackson for A&M responds with a nice drive of his own. A&M needs him to get going. A&M storms back and takes the lead off a massive 3, their first of the night, by Diarra as MSG erupts. Diarra is taking over, scoring 5 straight. Finally, both teams have taken the lid off the basket and are scoring. Timeout, 5:58 left 1st half, Xavier 24, Texas A&M 22.

Worth noting, Colby Jones has played every minute of this first half for Xavier. Jackson for A&M finally gets his first rest, as he also had played the entire first half up to this point. Kunkel continues his poor shooting, as he hasn’t hit the rim on at least three shots so far. Obaseki with another grown man drive and scores for A&M. He looks good so far. Henderson for the Aggies does come back into the game with his 3 fouls, bold strategy. Kunkel’s poor game continues as he picks up his third foul as well. I think someone left the doors open to MSG, as I believe we just got our fourth airball of the first half. Xavier switches to a 3-2 zone, which fails as they give up a 3pt shot to Diarra who is taking over. The zone did not last, as they are back to man to man. Timeout, 3:11 left 1st half, Texas A&M 31, Xavier 28.

The game plan to get the ball into the paint is still in effect, as Radford wiggles his way in for two. The 3s are falling for the Aggies which is dangerous, as they are now 3-6. Timeout, :57 left 1st half, Texas A&M 36, Xavier 30.

This looks like it’s going to be a free-throw shooting contest for the rest of the half, as Xavier has 9 team fouls and A&M has 7. Buzz Williams of A&M is fired up, looking for a kickball which he does not get. This inside game for A&M is eating Xavier alive.

At the half, it is Texas A&M 40 and Xavier 32.

Changes needed from both teams:

Texas A&M has to force Xavier to find someone aside from Colby Jones. Jones is the best player on the floor right now with a game-high 14 on 6-9 shooting and 2-4 from 3pt. The Aggies got better with ball security as the half went on, but 6 turnovers in a half isn’t great.

For Xavier, two major things. First, A&M is scoring at will in the paint. 20 1st half points in the paint. Second, either decide to challenge 3pt shots or dare them to stay hot. The Aggies are 3-6 from 3pt after starting ice cold.

Second Half:

Colby Jones played the entire first half for Xavier, while Quenton Jackson for A&M played 19 minutes. It will be interesting if fatigue starts to set in here in the second half. Xavier looks to pound the paint now, the first two possessions ending with shots in the paint, one going in. A&M going full-court press to start this second half. Henry Coleman III continues the inside scoring for A&M, as he looks to get more involved here in the second half. Inside scoring is the name of the game for both teams out of the gate, I don’t know if there has been a jump shot yet. FINALLY, a 3pt shot falls for Xavier as Nate Johnson buries one from behind the arc. They are going to need much more of that if they hope to get back into this. The full-court press of A&M seems to be bugging Xavier a bit here, we will see if they stay with it and for how long. 4 quick fouls for A&M, not a good sign. However, Xavier isn’t doing much with it as they are not shooting well from the FT line. Timeout, 15:54 left 2nd half, Texas A&M 45, Xavier 40.

Questionable offensive foul on Colby Jones of Xavier, as he picks up his third. Kunkel returns to the game after a long ride on the bench, we will see if he can find his stroke. Just like that, Kunkel picks up his fourth foul, fourth-team foul. A brief stop to confirm the foul, and we are back to action. Massive and-1 for Jack Nunge of Xavier, which brings the Musketeers within 2 points. MSG shows a little life as this game gets closer. A&M reaches 7 team fouls with 13:19 left. Tyrese Radford for the Aggies buries a 3, which is answered by Zach Freemantle. The threes are raining here at MSG as Colby Jones buries a MASSIVE 3 which wakes up this Xavier crowd! This 2022 NIT Final is getting interesting. Timeout, 12:09 left 2nd half, Texas A&M 52, Xavier 51.

6-0 run for Xavier, we will see if that momentum carries over after the timeout. Dwon Odom with a nice hook shot to give Xavier the lead back with 11 mins left. Both teams are trading baskets as the lead goes back and forth. Tyrese Radford with A NASTY spin move and the layup, A&M retakes the lead. Timeout, 9:38 left 2nd half, Texas A&M 56, Xavier 55.

Kunkel returns for Xavier, which I think is a mistake. The Musketeers are short-handed tonight but he is not playing well at all. As if it were scripted, Kunkel buries a 3 to give Xavier the lead. Radford for A&M is stepping up this 2nd half, as he gets into the paint and hits another lay-up. The 3s really are falling now, as Hayden Hefner buries a long 3pt shot for the Aggies to retake the lead again. Timeout, 7:45 left 2nd half, Texas A&M 61, Xavier 60.

Random band statement, but the Xavier band sounds better than the Texas A&M band, for anyone who cares. A clear advantage for A&M in free throws as A&M is 14-16 and Xavier is 5-11. Huge hustle play for Nunge, as he gets his own rebound twice and finally puts it in. Timeout, 5:26 left 2nd half, game tied at 63.

Texas A&M is a second-half team, and they are going to need some of that magic to keep up with Xavier. The Musketeers are out-scoring the Aggies 31-23 this second half. 13 lead changes and 7 ties so far in this 2022 NIT Final. Rough call on a held ball which negates a basket by Jackson for A&M. Game remains tied. Great drive and dish by Kunkel for a 3 by Johnson for Xavier. 9 team fouls for A&M with 4:13 left. That could prove costly. Both teams with 2 TOs left. Timeout, 3:57 left 2nd half, Xavier 68, Texas A&M 63.

It looks like Colby Jones is going to play this whole game, hasn’t sat yet sitting at 36 minutes. The dude is a hooper. A&M gets back to their bread and butter and gets a much-needed basket in the paint. Cuts the lead to 3. Huge offensive foul on Odom of Xavier which gives the Aggies a chance to tie. Quenton Jackson is taking over after that timeout, looks like Buzz Williams is making him the focal point. Kunkel goes in to slam it home, lays it in with contact but is called for a travel. A&M getting free throws on back-to-back possessions that keeps this game close. Missed goaltend call against Xavier, which sends A&M to the line with a chance to take the lead, which Jackson does. Colby Jones hits a tough floater to retake the lead. MSG is really buzzing now, which is nice to hear after a somewhat quiet first half. This looks like it’s going to be free throws that decides this game. Free throw woes continue for Xavier as Kunkel goes 1-2 from the line. Xavier recovers a scramble on the floor and Nunge calls TO. Timeout, 1:12 left 2nd half, Xavier 71, Texas A&M 70.

Kunkel runs an iso and misses, again. Why they decided to run a play for a player who is 1-8 I am not sure. Timeout, :39 left 2nd half, Xavier 71, Texas A&M 70.

MSG is on its feet. Buzz Williams runs a play for Jackson to get to the basket, he misses but is fouled. Big free throws here. He makes the first to tie the game with :26 left. Jackson makes both. Xavier takes their last TO. Timeout, :26 left 2nd half, Texas A&M 72, Xavier 71.

Play ran through Kunkel, again, and he misses, again. Rebound by Nunge which is blocked. 5.9 seconds left. Massive shot by Nunge to take the lead! 3.1 left! Timeout, :3.1 left 2nd half, Xavier 73, Texas A&M 72.

Quenton Jackson shoots a running shot that misses and Xavier is your 2022 NIT Champions!

Final score: Xavier 73-Texas A&M 72.

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