In a game that Xavier was the heavy favorite, it took care of business with a 90-68 win against Hampton.
The Musketeers came out of the gates flat and sluggish, but that was quelled by a pair of Tyrique Jones slams. Still, at the under-16 media timeout, Xavier was down 10-8.
The tides turned at the under-12 timeout when Xavier assumed an 18-12 lead and from that point on, it would be all Musketeers who shot 54 percent from the floor for the game.
Trevon Bluiett remained to be the lifeline to the Xavier offense, scoring in every which way possible for the Musketeers. He dropped 21 points, which, by his standards, is below his season average. Here’s a fun fact of the night: Bluiett was a perfect 17-17 on free throws through the first three games of the season before missing his first one in the first half of the game.
Nonetheless, Xavier controlled the game at half up by 12 points.
The second half got a bit lackadaisical early on, but eventually, the Musketeers were able to easily put away a Hampton team who couldn’t seem to find any sort of offensive rhythm while shooting an abysmal 32 percent from the floor for the game.
Bluiett: 21 points (7-9 FG), 4 rebounds
Kerem Kanter: 15 points, 4 rebounds
Naji Marshall: 12 points (5-7 FG), 7 rebounds
Sean O’Mara: 11 points (3-3 FG), 5 rebounds
Jermaine Marrow: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists
The bench is starting to produce
Granted, this matchup was expected to be a victory, but the bench came to play even if a lot of their points came in garbage time. Marshall had another fine performance tacking on 12 points and Kanter chipped in 15. He did well close to the basket and got some open looks on mid-range jumpers, but couldn’t convert consistently. If he can get that James Farr-like short corner jumper going, he can really add some versatility to this team. The bench had 54 points in this game which is a huge bright spot for a Chris Mack team that usually runs about eight guys deep.
The first half of games is going to be extra important
Xavier has come away with victories in its first four games, but for the most part, a majority of those wins have been because of second-half play. Even against some of the mid-major opponents, the Musketeers have only been leading at halftime by just into the teens. If they can put away weaker opponents early, the second halves will be much more smooth sailing.
Consistency will be key
The Musketeers can be a potent offensive juggernaut if everything comes together. Every player in the rotation has something unique to offer: Quentin Goodin is a big bodied guard who can attack the rim and has a keen sense of vision to be a playmaker. Bluiett can shoot the lights out of the ball and now has shown that he can score in more ways than one. Macura is a virtuoso mid-air and don’t forget, he can still shoot very well. Gates is a lengthy forward who can space the floor with his shooting range and Jones is a bruiser that can bully opponents down low. The freshmen can all play, although I expect them to adjust and improve as the season goes along and Kanter contributed in the win tonight. Without question, this team has all the intangibles to be a great team. At this point, it is just a matter of when the Musketeers find that groove. That may be one one of their greatest keys to success as a tougher part of the out-of-conference schedule is fast approaching with matchups against teams like Baylor, Cincinnati and Colorado.
Xavier did exactly what it needed to do and if it continues to play well, the team is on its way to capturing the Tire Pros title for the second straight year.