Rarely can you say a game decided by 30 points didn’t feel that close, but this may be that occasion. Xavier was never challenged in the slightest today and steamed to a 30-13 lead after only 15 minutes of basketball. That lead eventually ballooned to 36 as it became apparent that the Musketeers had transitioned into working on things rather than playing to the score. Trevon Bluiett had 23, Sean O’Mara had 12 on the blocks and the Musketeers hit 7-0 without breaking a metaphorical sweat.
This game is easier when shots fall:
Xavier shot 10-22 from behind the arc tonight. Trevon finally saw his jumper start to go, Kaiser Gates knocked in a couple, and Malcolm Bernard continued his improbably good start from deep. That opens up the inside, Sean O’Mara does his thing, and all of the sudden basketball looks pretty simple. When Xavier is knocking in jumpers, it’s going to take a defense better than NDSU’s to stop them.
Xavier can score in myriad ways:
The Musketeers almost shot 50% from deep. That’s great, but O’Mara made his claim to be the story by making 6-9 from inside. Once the game was beyond all doubt, Xavier ground the pace out and still found looks wherever they wanted by passing the ball well and continuing to run offense. 22 points off turnovers, 10 points off runouts, and 17 second chance points. That’s an offense that does a little bit of everything, and does it all well.
Defense still carries the day:
One of those not at all intrusive huddle cameras with about six minutes to play showed Coach Mack still getting into his team about not playing solid enough defense. NDSU wants to play slow, but Xavier forced them to take almost 20 seconds per scoring possession. Vitally, Xavier dominated on the defensive glass and allowed essentially no second chance points until the game had long since been decided. All the stats aren’t out yet, but when they hit expect this to look like another vintage Xavier performance.
A shout out to the officials:
Fans destroy the refs when they are bad, so it seems only right to acknowledge when they do their job well. This game remained unmarred by the usual 30 stoppages of play to check the clock, check a shot, or check anything else an official thinks he can get on tv by stopping to look at the monitor for. The whistle blew for fouls just 27 times, leaving us with a game that flowed like real basketball. Well done this time, gentlemen.