The Xavier Musketeers came into this game heavily favored against an inferior Kent State Golden Flashes team. They were able to capture their eighth victory of the season, beating their in-state foes, 96-70.
The Musketeers opened the first half strong commanded a 14-4 early lead by the under 16 timeout. It was no surprise that Trevon Bluiett had 10 of Xavier’s first 16 points to start the game. The Flashes weren’t out of the fight though, as they caught the Musketeers in a short period of stagnation, bringing their deficit to within five at the seven-minute mark of the first half.
From that point on, there was never any sort of doubt that Xavier was going to lose this one and they led for all but 14 seconds of the entire game. Xavier responded to Kent State’s failed comeback by answering with its own 8-0 in the last 2:22 of the first half.
The second half continued much of the same Musketeer domination on the court and they never looked back. This was Xavier’s game to win, as expected.
Kerem Kanter continues to thrive at Xavier as he registered his third consecutive double-digit performance. The grad transfer seems to have really hit his stride and his confidence is sky high after he collected a career-high 20 points tonight to go along with eight rebounds. Kanter agreed with the notion that this is the best basketball he has played in his career stating, “I did have a slow start, but I’m a senior... I went into the second half thinking the score was 0-0 and tried to play my best.”
Chris Mack was pleased with the play of his subs, who in total contributed 43 points off the bench. He alluded to the freshmen saying, “I thought our subs, our freshmen, Paul, Naji... I thought they really gave us really good energy on the defensive end.” He also spoke about the play of his starters saying, “I thought our starters set a much different tone defensively in the second half than they did in the first.”
Bluiett: 26 points
Kanter: 20 points, 8 rebounds
Sean O’Mara: 14 points
Tyrique Jones: 13 points (6-6 FG)
Is Kerem Kanter the X factor?
Kanter has played marvelous of late and has certainly been a spark coming off the bench for the Musketeers. Tonight, he broke his career-high in points just a game after doing so against Cincinnati. He’s been arguably the productive bench player and is showing that his confidence is growing. Kanter is an added bonus to a Musketeer frontcourt that touts three guys with three almost completely different styles of play. With this production, Mack can certainly mix and match the frontcourt pairings on a game-to-game basis.
Xavier is taking care of the ball
Tonight marked Xavier’s lowest number of turnovers this season. Not only were the Musketeers smart with the ball, but they also racked up 21 total assists. Quentin Goodin led the team with six assists and not far behind was J.P. Macura with five of his own. This is a very unselfish team and could be an important factor moving into the tougher parts of the schedule where everyone on the floor is going to need to bring their best.
Efficiency and points in the paint
The Musketeers continue to be one of the nation’s most efficient offenses and tonight, they converted 53 percent of their shots from the field. Another glaring stat was that half of their points came from within the paint. Numbers like these should make fans happy because this means the Musketeers can score from both inside and out. All three bigs played well tonight and we already know how well the team can shoot from outside. This in-out combination has the potential to devastate defenses from all points on the floor.
Up next for Xavier is a Colorado team that the Musketeers lost to last year by just a bucket. Chris Mack said it best, “See you Saturday.”