Xavier faced a formidable task against the 16th ranked Baylor Bears, and it delivered capturing a signature 76-63 victory.
Xavier came firing out of the (Kaiser) Gates thanks to his start of hitting all of his first three point field goal attempts. Xavier commanded an early 8-2 lead while Baylor struggled to hit its jump shots. At one point in the first half, the Bears were shooting just 27 percent from the field.
The Musketeers defense looked much improved from a game ago as their intensity was apparent clearly disrupting the systematic offensive flow of the Bears.
The offensive continued to shine to the under 12 minute timeout, with Xavier still leading 21-8, then things took a turn.
Baylor showed its resiliency and clawed back to bring the score to 32-29 at the under four minute media timeout.
By halftime, Xavier still held a 39-34 advantage and led for 17 minutes and 52 seconds in the first half.
The second half got pretty tight at the beginning and it was pretty evident that Baylor was not going down without a fight. At the under 16 timeout, Baylor brought the game within a bucket.
From that point on, the Musketeers turned on the jets and they never lost the lead for the rest of the game.
Baylor got into foul trouble, allowing Xavier to get into the bonus with more than 12 minutes to go in the game. This bolstered the Musketeer lead as Xavier converted 18 or its 23 free throw attempts.
Gates, who scored a career-high 19 points tonight, sealed the victory with another three with just over a minute left. At that point, Xavier emerged victorious.
Gates: 19 points (career-high)
J.P. Macura: 19 points
Bluiett: 10 points
The Musketeers defense was drastically improved from a game ago. They held the seven-foot Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. to just eight points and four rebounds and Manu Lemonte to just 11 points. Additionally, Baylor made 0 field goals in the last three and a half minutes of the game. Moving forward, this will be ever so important for this defense to play the way it played today, because the road will get tougher once conference play begins.
Quentin Goodin proved Tuesday that he can be an elite point guard. He found his teammates open dishing out nine assists and turned the ball over all of zero times. If he can continue this trend, he have a tremendous impact over the course of the season. Combine the fact that he is easily the best on ball defender on the team and you’ve got a formula for success.
Kaiser Gates can be a game changer
Gates tallied a career-high 19 points tonight and Mack has said time and time again that he is the second best shooter on this squad. Gates also played fantastic defense on two very good forwards and has been a bulwark on the defensive side all season. Gates, now a solidified starter, will give opposing defenses fits having to guard a 4 on the perimeter. His stroke was on tonight and in games like this where Bluiett doesnt score as much as he normally does, Gates can be that next man up.
Xavier now has a few days to relish in victory, but also turn its attention to the bad-blood rivalry with Cincinnati in the Crosstown Shootout. If Xavier can play the way it did tonight against a very talented Baylor team, it has a really good chance at claiming bragging rights over the Queen City come Saturday afternoon.