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Xavier vs Ohio State game preview

The in-state showdown should be a blast!

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Xavier Musketeers (2-0) return to the Gavitt Games for the first time since the 2018-19 season Thursday night against the in-state foe #19 Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0).

After winning the first four games of this year’s Gavitt Tipoff, the Big East dropped both games Wednesday night. Xavier will try to get the conference back on track.

Without Zach Freemantle to start the season, Paul Scruggs has led the way for the Musketeers. The veteran guard has averaged a team-high 20 points and 4.5 assists per game, showing why he was picked to the preseason All-Big East First Team. Behind Scruggs, Xavier has gotten contributions from sophomore Colby Jones. Named to the 2020-21 BIG EAST All-Freshman Team, Jones is second on the Musketeers in points, rebounds, and assists per game.

Travis Steele will also rely on transfers Jack Nunge and Jerome Hunter against one of the better defenses in the country. Both players came from the Big Ten and have experience against Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes. Nunge hit his career-high with 18 points against Ohio State twice before, and Hunter averaged 8 points per game against his former conference rival.

EJ Liddell leads the way for the Buckeyes. Currently rated as the most efficient player in the country per Kenpom, Liddell is averaging more than 22 points per contest. Behind their junior forward, Ohio State is looking to add to a 3-0 record on the season and in the Gavitt Games. The Buckeyes were picked to finish fourth in a strong Big Ten and dominated their last two opponents after struggling against Akron in the opener.

This in-state matchup will be the first meeting between these two schools since the 2007 NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes took that one on their way to an NCAA championship appearance, and they hold a 3-1 series lead over the Musketeers. The last three games between these two teams have gone to overtime, including Xavier’s lone win in 1984. Ohio State has won 32 consecutive games against Ohio opponents since 1994.

How to watch or stream

Time: 6:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1

Streaming: FOX Sports Go