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Xavier shows off what they should be in trouncing EKU

The Muskies stuck to their strengths in this one, and it paid dividends in the form of a big win.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

This one started slowly for Xavier, as EKU’s senior center Nick Mayo came out of the gates hot. The school’s newly-minted all-time leading scorer proved an impossible matchup for either of X’s big men, dragging them out to the perimeter and going to work. His productivity had EKU up 23-16 with 10 minutes off the clock, and things were looking grim in Cintas.

A couple things changed to put Xavier on top. First, Coach Steele switched to a 2-3 zone, delegating the responsibility of slowing down Mayo to multiple players. Second, Mayo picked up his second foul and went to the bench.

From that time on, Xavier went on a 31-10 run to close out the half, nicely putting away the game in a way they have all too infrequently this season. A commitment to getting all the way to the rim against EKU’s press put Xavier in good places on offense, and they converted at a high level.

Mayo came back to start the second half and promptly triggered a 7-0 run to bring the game back within touching distance, but a Travis Steele timeout and a response run from Xavier made the final 15 minutes of the game perfunctory. EKU isn’t going anywhere this season; if Xavier wants to, they need to continue to do the things they did well tonight.

Naji and Q are pure slashers

Each guy made a three, but one of those makes hit the glass first and I don’t think it was called. Xavier was at its best when Goodin and Marshall were getting the ball on the deck and attacking. Goodin got a lot of easy buckets in transition thanks to his 7 (!) steals, and he added 10 assists for good measure. Marshall was in his bag in the mid-range and went for 13/10/6 on 5-9 shooting. Both of those guys showed a lot of their best when they committed to getting to the middle of the floor rather than settling for jumpers.

There’s still work to be done

27 turnovers. Goodness me. There’s no reason that should happen, regardless of who you’re playing and how many possessions there are, in a game that doesn’t have half a dozen overtimes. A lot of good stuff happened in this game, but the way Xavier was with ball security reminds you of how they’ve been finding ways to lose to decent teams.

The two-foul auto bench is a pox on college basketball

Nick Mayo was dragging EKU through Xavier in the first 10 minutes, but his second foul relegated him to the bench for the rest of the first half. By the time he got back into the game and battled his way to 25 and 6, the only thing left in doubt was the final score. Maybe Mayo fouls out early in the game if he stays in and EKU loses anyway, but they lost any chance they had by taking him out.