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At a Trot: Xavier overcomes UNI again

Xavier blasted the Panthers in their first game back from Thanksgiving.

NCAA Basketball: Northern Iowa at Xavier
Chris Mack’s defensive exhortations were clearly heeded today.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Back to back games against the same opponent aren’t a feature of most schedules, but Xavier and Northern Iowa just meat each other only six days after the finals of the Tire Pros Invitational. Last time wasn’t pretty and Xavier had to weather a late rally for the win. This time, that wasn’t the case at all as Xavier led by more than 20 for most of the contest.

The defense is capable of being great

Northern Iowa scored 12 points in the first 20 minutes. There were no lead changes, no ties after the tip, a 40-14 lead at one point, and never any suggestion that the Panthers were going to sniff being in the game. It was 20-5 at one point and the intensity that Byron Larkin mentioned seeing in practice all week was certainly evident in the defensive effort in the first half. There are no stats that tell more tales than 12 points in 20 minutes.

The shooting still could use some work

Xavier was 8-22 from behind the arc and shot 45.6% from the floor. Both of those numbers reflect an improvement, but they came at the expense of a team taking a complete thrashing. In a game against Villanova in February those shooting marks wouldn’t be out of place, but you can bet that Coach Mack won’t be happy until he sees his team turning dominance on the offensive glass into some slightly better offensive numbers.

Xavier is starting to look dangerous

Anyone who saw the last 20 minutes of the Tire Pros could have been forgiven for thinking this was going to be a contest. Instead, Xavier tore into a lesser opponent and dispatched them for their first comprehensive win over a top 100 opponent this year. There are bigger challenges to come, and Xavier fans can now feel somewhat more assured to approach them.