It's rare that a game is well and truly over before the first media timeout, but tonight's rout was. Murray State came in as the toughest team Xavier had played so far and the first in the top 80 of the Ken Pomeroy ratings. The Racers warmed up for Xavier by challenging NAIA also ran Brescia. While the Bearcats did go 16-12 in the KIAC last year, they were probably not an appropriate way to get ready for Big East basketball. Five minutes in, the Musketeers led 15-2 and already had the swagger of a team on its way to a stroll.
And it was a stroll. Xavier will play teams this year that can drag themselves back into a game into after taking a beating, but Murray St. is not one of them. The Racers got themselves within seven, but more in the manner of a man who kicks above the waves one final time than in the manner of a rally. From that 26-19 high point, Trevon Bluiett (19/5/3) scored six straight and that was that. That run became 12-2 to take Xavier to a 17 point lead. Dee Davis (13/2/5) scored five straight, Matt Stainbrook (19/8/2) added a bucket and Xavier squelched another psuedo run to go up 18.
By the half Xavier had briefly led by as many as 22 and held a 52-32 lead. In that half Xavier shot 61% from the floor, 5-11 from deep, and led the battle on the glass 26-7. Yes, 26-7. After Xavier was outrebounded by a Lilliputian Stephen F. Austin squad in their last game, they more than answered the bell this time. Xavier pounded the ball inside and scored 30 in the paint, 11 second chance points, 17 points off turnovers, and 10 points on the break. It was as comprehensive a beating as you'll likely ever witness in a game of teams that are theoretically comparable. Keep in mind that coming in Xavier was 46th in the KenPom and Murray was 80th. The numbers predicted a seven point gap at the end. Instead, it was 22 at the half.
Xavier didn't lift off the gas in the second stanza either, at least not to begin with. Try as Murray did, they couldn't climb back into the game. The lead dipped briefly to 16, and Xavier ripped off a quick 8-2 run. The lead swelled to 26 before the only really noteworthy incident of the last 20 minutes. Defensive stalwart JP Macura (2/2/0) read a pass perfectly with 8:55 to play in the game and quickly had the ball and was heading the other way. Terron Gilmore hustled back with the kind of effort every coach loves to see, but then inexplicably bulldozed a defenseless Macura rather than make a play on the ball. Gilmore was instantly, and rightfully, dismissed from the game, but that didn't keep Macura from striking the floor with his lower back and his head from whipslamming to the ground frighteningly.
Macura returned to the bench later, but he wasn't moving well and he looked hazy to say the least. Frustration in a blowout is understandable, but anyone who has played the game as long and as well as Terron Gilmore has the body control necessary to simply commit the "no easy buckets" kind of foul. Gilmore chose not to do that, though, and instead ran through Macura like he was some sort of airborne tackling dummy. Jalen Reynolds (12/11/1) was also ejected from the game for leaving the bench to run toward Macura. To Reynolds credit he didn't try to stir anything up and seemed to accept his dismissal philosophically before throwing up the X on the way out.
And that was pretty much the game. As Edmond Sumner (0/1/3) made his debut and Sean O'Mara (7/4/0) put up his best effort to date, the game got a bit sloppy. Still the defense didn't falter and the Musketeers put the game away with ease. Things will get more difficult from here, indeed they should have been harder tonight, but it's really hard not to look at the first four games of this season and think that Xavier is going places.
- Who is the killer? It's still kind of hard to say because this game was a walkover, but Bluiett clearly relished the opportunity to bury the Racers when he could. James Farr (10/14/1) was also not at all inclined to let this game turn into anything resembling a contest, dominating the smaller Murray St group on the glass all night long.
- What do you do at the four? On this evidence? Play them both. Farr and Reynolds combined for 22/25/2 in only 44 minutes of playing time. Needless to say, you aren't going to get that each game, but the effort that came with those numbers is both repeatable and encouraging.
- Can this really keep up? The offensive efficiency for this game was 125.6. That's the second worst game Xavier has played offensively on the year. It's only been four games, but that doesn't matter. 125.6 is amazing and would have been the sixth best game Xavier played last year. The Musketeers 107.5 adjusted offensive efficiency ranks 21st in the nation right now. I don't know if that lasts, but it's a blast right now.
Tweet of the Game:
I love players throwing the X.
@BannersParkway He gave a solid "X" going off the floor too. Well done.— Hey, it's Matt! (@MBrooESQ) November 25, 2014