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Xavier opens Travis Steele era with win over IUPUI

It wasn’t always pretty, but a win is a win.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Xavier vs Texas Southern Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Xavier Musketeers improved to 1-0 on the new season with an 82-69 victory over the IUPUI Jaguars Tuesday evening at Cintas Center.

San Jose State transfer Ryan Welage led the Musketeers with a game-high 24 points in his Xavier debut. Welage undoubtedly made Xavier fans think of Trevon Bluiett, as 21 of his 24 points came in the second half. For a portion of the second half, the Musketeers were in precarious territory, IUPUI was within three points with 12 minutes to play. Welage took over, though, hitting five threes in the half and hauling in six rebounds (he finished with seven on the night).

Xavier’s three grad transfers each made their mark on this game. Welage had the scoring lead, Columbia transfer Kyle Castlin had a team-high eight rebounds, and Ferris State transfer Zach Hankins had six points, seven rebounds, and five blocks. Hankins also appeared to bait IUPUI guard Camron Justice into an ejection late in the first half. Hankins blocked Justice’s shot and sent him to the ground. He appeared to yelled something at the grounded guard, to which Justice responded by attempting to trip Hankins from the floor, resulting in a flagrant two foul.

Now that we covered the new guys, how did Xavier’s returning players do? Quite well! Tyrique Jones had 17 points and six rebounds before fouling out after just 22 minutes, while Naji Marshall had 13 points and seven assists, as leading assist man Quentin Goodin was held out with a shoulder injury. It was a gritty team effort for the Musketeers, which they may get a lot of this season as they try to make up for the loss of 50+ points per game from departing players.

Xavier has now won 29 straight season opening games, dating all the way back to 1989-90. They’ve also won 40 straight non-conference games at Cintas Center.

Jaylen Minnett led IUPUI with 21 points.

Xavier will return to action Saturday against Evansville.