By Luke Feliciano | Sports Editor
Xavier snapped its three-game losing streak at home against Georgetown last Wednesday before falling to Creighton on the road on Sunday. The Musketeers got their flow back against the Hoyas but failed to score for almost the final five minutes of the game. In the loss against Creighton, the Musketeers had similar miscues resurface.
With a rematch against Marquette looming tonight, here are some key takeaways from last week’s action.
Tandy shows signs of becoming an offensive threat
Freshman guard KyKy Tandy has seemingly found his shot from 3-point range, and while that has improved Xavier’s ability to score more points, he has also begun to show signs of his quickness off the dribble and explosiveness toward the basket.
Utilizing both his shot and the drive, Tandy netted a career-best 18 points, which matched junior forward Naji Marshall for a team high.
“I thought KyKy played tremendous,” head coach Travis Steele said following the Georgetown game. “There’s so much joy for a coach when you see a young man start to blossom. All the hard work that he’s been putting in —whether it’s in practice, in the gym getting extra shots up, watching film — it makes you really smile.
“He still has a long way to go before he reaches his potential, but I thought he did some great things. Hopefully, this will continue to move him forward because I don’t think you’ve seen the complete KyKy Tandy yet, that’s for sure,” Steele added.
Steele believes Freemantle can emerge as a consistent scorer
Freshman forward Zach Freemantle has received a slew of minutes early in his Xavier career coming off the bench.
He has transitioned from a player that operates mostly in the paint to a player who has extended his game to the mid and long range. Freemantle played the best game from a numbers perspective against Creighton, scoring a career-high 18 points on an efficient 7-12 shooting.
“He plays to win, you can tell in his eyes,” Steele said last Wednesday. “You can tell with his eyes — dude is locked in. I’ve been challenging him on the glass because I thought he got his butt kicked against Marquette … He’s a better scorer than what he showed tonight, but he’s a freshman. He’s going to keep coming on. He’s going to keep building. We have all the belief in the world in Zach.”
Numbers aside, Freemantle has been playing like a player with much more college experience than he currently has — he shows poise, hustle and a team-first mentality.
Steele has placed an emphasis on describing how special Freemantle is and what type of player he can evolve into. He’s definitely shown traces of that in his recent performances.
Trouble halting Creighton’s 3-point shooting
Creighton’s roster has several players who can fill it up from beyond the arc. Aside from a few of Mitch Ballock’s 3-point shots, which were taken from well past the line, Xavier could not keep up with the Bluejays as a result of their 3-point scoring.
In the first half alone, Xavier surrendered seven 3-point shots to the Bluejays and 11 overall.
Xavier attempted to play a zone against Creighton, but the Musketeers had to switch out of it after multiple 3-point shots were made.
“Because they were scoring on us,” Steele said about his decision to go to a zone defense. “I felt like they kept getting wide open 3s there for a little bit … I decided maybe to slow it down a little bit. I thought it gave us a little bit of a jolt (but) you can’t zone Creighton for too long – they shoot the ball too well.”
Steele wants the team to execute better
Steele wasn’t thrilled with the team reverting back to the same mistakes it had made prior to the matchup with Creighton.
“It feels like Groundhog Day,” Steele said. “We will not get the results we want unless it changes … The results have shown itself (and) something’s got to change. It has nothing to do with toughness or a play-hard mentality. It has everything to do with execution and doing what the game tells you to do.”
Xavier sliced the lead to single digits before allowing Creighton to quickly go back ahead by double digits at the tail end of the second half.
“For us, we have to figure it out,” Steele said after the Creighton game. “I thought we competed. I thought we played hard for the most part. I thought our effort was there.”