By: Paul Fritschner ~Staff Writer~
The Musketeers had a nice break in between their massive win over Dayton and their tilt on Saturday against Western Kentucky. The team jumped to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll and was looking to avoid a post-success meltdown at the hands of the Hilltoppers. In addition, a good portion of the team contracted a virus, so there was a question as to how ready the team would be for the game.
If you are looking for the opposite of a basketball meltdown, look no further than Saturday’s demolition of the over-matched and overwhelmed Western Kentucky team.
WKU did score the first basket of the game, but that was the Hilltoppers highlight. By halftime the Musketeers had a 14 point lead and Trevon Bluiett had already poured in 13 of his own.
Xavier came out of the locker room and within the opening minutes put to rest any thoughts of a Hilltopper comeback. The Musketeers went on multiple runs to stretch the lead out. James Farr added 18 for a new career-high, and Bluiett had 21 to go along with 10 rebounds for yet another double-double. The Musketeers handled this game like they should have handled Northern Kentucky.
Tuesday’s game against Wright State also provided little resistance for the Musketeers. After slugging to a sloppy 8-6 lead five minutes in, the Musketeers went on a 25-0 run during the next nine minutes to knock the Raiders for good. They would go on to win 90-55 as Bluiett recorded 22 points and 11 boards for his third double-double of the season.
Player of the Week:
This Xavier team is incredibly deep. Many feared the Musketeers would struggle down low upon the departure of Matt Stainbrook. The big men, however, have stepped it up ,and James Farr in particular has stood out among the rest.
Coming off the bench, Farr has taken the season by storm and is a force to be reckoned with down low. While he is averaging over 10 points a game, his greatest contribution might come on the glass where he averaging almost nine rebounds a game and has emerged as one of the best rebounders in the nation.
What’s even more impressive is the improvement Farr has shown over the course of his career. He has worked his way up from being deep on the bench to playing an integral role on the team. In fact, Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis just tabbed Farr in an article as his early- season Sixth Man of the Year.
5 — Number of Xavier players that scored in double-figures against Western Kentucky. J.P. Macura added nine also.
204 — Number of free throws made by Xavier. This is significant because Xavier’s opponents have only attempted 168.
14 — Xavier’s Adjusted Defense ranking according to KenPom.com. This means that over 100 possessions, Xavier gives up the 15th fewest points in the nation. James Farr previously said the team’s goal was to be in the top 40 in the country.
They said it:
“Nobody’s immune, if you don’t bring it on game night, you’ll lose,” Coach Mack said in reference to handling a lesser opponent and not letting off the gas pedal after building momentum. The team looked at Miami (FL) and how it steamrolled top teams in Puerto Rico but laid an egg against Northeastern at home, and the Musketeers viewed that as something they wanted to avoid.
This is it, folks. It’s the game we have been waiting for since Dee Davis broke the hearts of Cincinnati fans back in February. The annual Crosstown Shootout returns to Xavier’s campus for the first time since 2011 with the Musketeers looking to make it three straight wins over the Bearcats.
Cincinnati has one blemish on its record so far this season, a loss to Butler last week. Cincinnati is ranked No. 23 in the AP poll while Xavier sits at No. 12. This will be the first Shootout since 1994 where both teams enter ranked.
The Bearcats, known under head coach Mick Cronin for being a stingy defensive team, are ranked nine spots behind Xavier in the KenPom overall rankings, coming in at No. 19.
The Shootout will take place at Cintas Center on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast nationally on your local Fox station and it will be available to the most households in the history of the Shootout.