By: Paul Fritschner ~Staff Writer~
Xavier was in action five times during winter break, as it concluded its non-conference slate and segued into Big East play. Xavier took on a struggling Auburn Tigers team on Dec. 19 and looked to avenge a double overtime defeat from last season. Xavier got off to a strong start and used the second half to secure a sound 85-61 victory. Jalen Reynolds was the leading scorer for the Musketeers with 18 points.
Just three days later, Xavier traveled to Winston-Salem, N.C., for a tilt with Wake Forest.
The first half was a disaster for Xavier, who went into the break looking for a way to dig itself out of a 15-point hole. The then-No. 6 team in the nation came out in a flurry and overwhelmed Wake Forest over the game’s final 20 minutes, outscoring them 50-27 in the second half en route to a 78-70 win.
It was then on to Villanova for the much-anticipated matchup with the battle-tested kings of the Big East. Much of the excitement of a high-impact day in the conference was dampened by a terrifying injury early on in the game. Breakout star Edmond Sumner went up for a fast-break layup less than three minutes into the game and fell to the floor on his back. Villanova forward Kris Jenkins fell directly on Sumner’s head, an impact that seemed to knock Sumner out cold. Medical personnel rushed to his side and promptly carted him off the court.
The game was ostensibly over from that point, as the Musketeers never regrouped after seeing their teammate go down. After only hitting one three-pointer in their previous game, Villanova unleashed from long range for eight threes early in the first half. It tore Xavier apart in just about every facet of the game and sent Xavier back to Cincinnati with its first loss of the season by a score of 95-64.
Without Sumner in the lineup, it was unclear how Xavier would respond less than 48 hours later against the then-No. 9 Butler Bulldogs. However, Remy Abell put the team on his back, and Xavier answered in resounding fashion. Abell poured in 21, five Musketeers scored in double-figures, and Xavier won 88-69.
The Musketeers concluded winter break with a trip to the Big Apple to take on St. John’s. Xavier got off to a hot start and appeared poised to blowout the Red Storm, but Chris Mullin’s squad had other ideas. Xavier slumped and saw its lead shrink to only seven at the half. Then in the second half, Myles Davis stepped up to take control when St. John’s got within a point to lead Xavier to a 74-66 victory.
The Musketeers cruised to an 84-64 home win over DePaul on Tuesday behind Bluiett’s careerhigh of 24 points. Xavier is currently ranked No. 7 and is 15-1.
Player of the Break:
Myles Davis has stepped up when the team needed him over the last few games. When business gets tough, it’s Davis that shoulders much of the weight. His clutch shooting, including 9-9 from the free throw line, sealed the deal against St. John’s. He dropped in 11 against Butler and nine against Wake Forest. While other players have lacked consistency in some games, Davis seems to be the man the Musketeers can turn to when they need a bucket.
They said it:
“Our team is a team. We have multiple pieces. We’re not going to play that much differently. I was happy with the way Myles did his job.” – Coach Chris Mack said after the Butler game.
Xavier travels to Milwaukee to take on Marquette this Saturday at 2 p.m. The Golden Eagles stand at 12-4 (2-2). Coach Mack has been optimistic about Sumner’s return, and it will be important to have him back against a more staunch opponent than St. John’s and DePaul. You can catch the game on Fox Sports 1.