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Xavier’s ailing big men will be a key to Saturday’s Crosstown Shootout

Tyrique Jones got his bell rung and Zach Hankins is coming back from the flu; Xavier needs them at full strength against UC.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

With 2:11 left in the game against Ohio U and Xavier putting the finishing touches on a 26-7 run that would take the game from contested to laughable, Tyrique Jones stepped up to take a charge from Bobcats guard Teyvion Kirk. As the combined forces of the impact and gravity sent Ty to the floor, the back of his head connected with the knee of Bobcats center Doug Taylor.

By the time a woozy Jones was helped to the locker room several minutes later, Xavier fans were already looking ahead to the matchup with UC with some sort of increased trepidation.

Of course, the presence of the team’s starting center in a game that was on the cusp of garbage time was largely necessitated by the lack of availability of a backup option. Former D2 player of the year and future Muskie-most-hated-by-UC-fans Zach Hankins played only 11 minutes against OU, looking exactly like a guy struggling through flu-like symptoms for most of his time on the court.

Jones and Hankins average something on the order of 21 and 13 in almost exactly 40 minutes of play per game. In splitting a fifth of Xavier’s on-court time, they’ve accounted for well over a third of the team’s total rebounds.

This is all pertinent because, for all of everything else that goes into the game, this one is likely to be decided on the glass. UC’s offense is predicated on their 8th-ranked offensive rebounding attack; they’re outside the top 100 in the rest of the four factors (EFG%, TO rate, OReb%, and FT rate) on the offensive end. On defense, they’re elite in forcing turnovers and tough shots but mediocre in defending the glass; the only way through is often to crash the boards.

Tyrique practiced today, wearing the gold jersey for the top practice performer of the prior week. Zach Hankins talked in the press conference about how much he’s looking forward to making UC fans hate him. In about 19 hours, Xavier needs both of those guys to be at their best for 40 hard-fought minutes.