This trip to Cedar Falls was never going to be easy and, lo and behold, it wasn’t. Xavier played another half of ugly basketball before finally finding their legs and, for the first time in a couple of games, looked like the team that has earned a top 10 ranking in the nation. With Christmas on the way, Xavier’s basketball team heads home with visions of road wins dancing in their heads.
Basketball is better when you throw the ball to the right team:
Xavier turned the ball over 13 times in the first half against that doesn’t try to force turnovers. Northern Iowa was content to sit back, and Xavier was content to throw them the ball anyway. The first time Xavier had the ball in the half, they turned it over. The penultimate time they had the ball, they turned it over. UNI is a good mid-major team, but the Musketeers left them in the game far too long with a frankly dreadful first half performance. With 30 minutes to play, Xavier trailed by 10 and had only a 39% chance of winning the game. Thankfully...
The offense is back:
Xavier responded to that horrid first half by pouring it on in the second. The Musketeers hadn’t scored 48 in a half since the first half against Colorado. They did it here, though, and they needed it. The defense was solid all game, allowing less than a point per possession. After tying the game by the half with a 17-7 run, X pulled away on the strength of scoring. Of the nine Musketeers who played double digit minutes, only JP Macura (98) and Paul Scruggs (31) didn’t post offensive efficiency ratings over 100. Kaiser Gates’ 160 led the way, but the whole team combined to shoot 52% inside the arc, 52% behind it, and 79% from the line. That will win you games.
The bigs are playing ball:
If you count Kaiser Gates, Xavier’s big men were good for 34/18/3 on 12-21 from the floor. That four man rotation of Gates, Tyrique Jones, Sean O’Mara, and Kerem Kanter more than made up for Trevon Bluiett’s issues with the whistle and gave Xavier a base to restart the offense. While the rest of the team threw the ball all over the place, the bigs turned the ball over a combined total of once in the 80 minutes they accounted for. While Bluiett and Macura will get a lot of the press, Xavier’s interior presence has been the relentless force propelling the team forward.