By: Nick McGill ~Sports Editor~
The Xavier men’s basketball season tipped off on Nov. 14 against the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Lumberjacks at Cintas Center. In front of thousands of eager Musketeer fans, Xavier trounced Lumberjacks 93-60.
On a night when fans got their first look at the newly minted Xavier roster, the Musketeers put on a show, jumping ahead early and never looking back.
Two new faces appeared in the starting lineup as freshman forward Trevon Bluiett and junior guard Remy Abell joined returning Muskies junior forward James Farr and seniors center Matt Stainbrook and guard Dee Davis on the court for tip off.
The Musketeers got off to a hot start with Stainbrook scoring the first seven points of the game, including a rare 3-pointer. He finished the game with 18 points and nine rebounds in only 19 minutes of play.
From the start, there was excellent ball movement, which allowed every player to get touches and culminated in an exciting alley-oop dunk by sophomore forward Jalen Reynolds.
At the second TV timeout with 11:48 left to play in the first half Xavier had already jumped out to a 23-7 lead.
The Lumberjacks were simply too small to match up against the much bigger and stronger Musketeer team. Upon receiving the ball in the post, Stainbrook maneuvered easily against the smaller and weaker Lumberjacks.
As freshmen entered the game, fans observed with watchful eyes to see how they would perform in their debut.
Bluiett was impressive in all facets of his game. He was able to attack the rim, pull up for a jump shot and distribute the ball with ease.
Freshman guard J.P. Macura was not hesitant to find the open shot while fellow freshman forward Sean O’Mara found himself in foul trouble in the first half.
The Musketeers seemed to be dominant in nearly every aspect of the game. Not a single Lumberjack was able to find rhythm.
That is until the last six minutes of the game when the Musketeer’s defense began to relax.
NAU senior guard Quinton Upshure went off scoring 18 of his 20 points in the last six minutes.
Stainbrook acknowledged the impressive overall play by the team, but could not overlook the laziness at the end of the game.
“We can’t give up that many points at the end… we can’t beat good teams if we can’t close out games,” Stainbrook said.
This is the kind of leadership head coach Chris Mack relies on from his senior star who did not think twice about his huge takeaway from the game.
On Nov. 18, the Musketeers played against Long Beach State University, winning with a final score of 97-74.
The team turned in a solid effort with five players scoring in double-digits led by Bluiett’s 20.
Xavier knocked down 16 3-pointers in an offensive rout but showed signs of weakness on defense.
At times Long Beach State overcame with the Musketeer defense, finding players unguarded and discovering clear lanes to the basket.
Xavier plays against Stephen F. Austin at 8 p.m. on Nov. 21 in Cinats Center.