Newswire photo by Desmond Fischer | Junior forward Tyrique Jones recorded a pair of double-doubles with standout performances against Miami (OH) and Oakland last week.
Xavier notched two more wins last week as it defeated Miami and Oakland at home to improve to 5-3 on the young season.
The Miami game was marked by a well-balanced offensive effort –– each player in the starting lineup scored at least eight points.
“I think it’s big. It’s hard to scout,” head coach Travis Steele said about the team’s scoring distribution. “The go-to guy for us is always going to be the open guy… We have to continue to develop our depth and that’s going to be really important moving forward.”
Sophomore forward Naji Marshall paced the Xavier offense, collecting 10 first-half points to go along with four rebounds. Marshall finished with a team-high 17 points in addition to six rebounds and two assists.
Miami hit a couple of threes to assume an early lead, but Xavier responded promptly by guarding the perimeter shots more tightly.
Defending the three-point shot has been a weakness in the Xavier defense this season, but the Musketeers neutralized the RedHawks on the perimeter. Miami shot just 2 for 12 from beyond the arc and 36 percent overall in the first half.
In the second half alone, Xavier held Miami to a mere 30 percent from the field. This helped solidify a stalwart defensive display by the Musketeers.
Junior forward Tyrique Jones was active near the rim throughout the game. He amassed a double-double with an equal 13 points and 13 boards.
Jones entered the game in sole possession of the best offensive rebound percentage in the entire country, and he showed his might in the paint, ripping down three offensive boards throughout the game.
Graduate transfer guard Kyle Castlin followed up three productive showings on Xavier’s most recent road stretch in Maui with a quality performance against Miami. He dropped nine points while pulling down four rebounds.
Steele compared Castlin to former Xavier guard Malcolm Bernard, who was known for his swarming defensive presence and consistency on offense.
“Kyle is the ultimate glue guy,” Steele said. “I thought he did a really nice job defending tonight… We need that from him.”
Xavier took advantage of favorable matchups and scored 46 points in the paint. It also forced 14 turnovers and scored 28 points off those takeaways.
The Musketeers, donning their alternate grey home uniforms, controlled a double-digit lead in the first half and never ceded their advantage while securing a decisive 82-55 victory at Cintas Center, the largest margin of victory thus far for Xavier this season.
Xavier has not squared off against Oakland for more than a decade – a game Xavier won – and the Musketeers provided much of the same result as it captured its third straight win.
Xavier was down early, but headed into the locker room with a 41-36 edge.
Despite some early foul trouble, Jones paced the Musketeers with an efficient eight points (going 3-3 from the floor) while grabbing six rebounds in the first half, four of which were offensive boards.
The Golden Grizzlies opted to utilize a zone defense, which was exploited by the Musketeers offense –– primarily in the paint. Xavier scored 38 points in the key throughout the game.
“We want to play paint ball,” Steele said. “I don’t want to just settle for jump shots … We do have to be committed and we were, I thought, for the most part getting that ball to the paint.”
Oakland forward Xavier Hill-Mais wreaked havoc against the Musketeers, making a variety of difficult shots, and scoring 22 points in the first half.
However, Xavier countered, made adjustments and held the Golden Grizzlies’ top scorer to eight points in the second half.
Xavier controlled an advantage for a majority of the game, but the Golden Grizzlies hung around largely in part because of their 41 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
With just under two minutes to go in the game, Oakland creeped within four points of the lead, but Xavier was able to stave off the Golden Grizzlies comeback attempt thanks to a layup by Marshall and a three-pointer by Welage.
Freshman Keonte Kennedy logged a lot of quality minutes. He only scored three points but pitched in nicely on the defensive side of the ball.
“He’s continuing to learn the defensive system and the offensive system,” Steele said about the freshman. “I do think he is progressing very well for us.”
The Musketeers encountered some bumps in the road during the second half through a minor scoring rut and several stoppages. However, they still outlasted the Golden Grizzlies, 73-63 to take home the victory.
One aspect of this game that shouldn’t go unnoticed –– Jones, Castlin, Marshall, Hankins, Welage and sophomore guard Paul Scruggs all scored in double figures.
By: Luke Feliciano | Sports Editor