The final score was hardly material in this one. Xavier drifted to an unimpressive finish, but Jacksonville didn't have the horses to make it matter. The game was settled by a 17-2 run that straddled the half for the Muskies, turning it from a comfortable win to a perfunctory rout on Victory Parkway. For the 20th straight season, Xavier moves to 1-0 at home.
The game sputtered to life behind Tyrique Jones, who was the only player on either team who looked like doing anything before the first media timeout. His contribution carried X to a 6-2 lead at that break. The paint was good to Xavier all day, with Jones and Zach Freemantle finding their way into double figures.
It was Xavier's defense that took the reins after that, holding Jacksonville to 8 points in the final 9 minutes of the half. Xavier's effort was impressive down that stretch, and they limited Jacksonville to 0 offensive boards in the first half. That more than anything speaks to the advantage Xavier held tonight.
The second half was as frankly unimpressive as the first half was fun. Xavier was outscored 35-33 by a Jacksonville team that seemed at times more engaged with the game despite being down by as many as 30. The Muskies allowed 5 offensive boards, turned the ball over 6 times to Jacksonville's 5, and were even with the visitors on points in the paint. Some of that was due to the personnel on the floor as Xavier tried different packages, but players X will be counting on this season participated in some uninspired ball down the stretch.
A win, new guys blooded in, and some things to work on. The season is out of the blocks for Xavier.
Here are our three takeaways from tonight...
This team's strength is in the paint
Tyrique Jones was 7-8 from the floor and went for 17 and 11. Zach Freemantle was impressive in his debut and posted 11 and 5. The Muskies also had a lot of success in having Naji and Paul Scruggs dribble into the post and go to work on perimeter defenders. The game is moving towards pace and space, but there are a lot of ways to win in college. Xavier's is in the lane, partly because...
This team is still having trouble shooting
Some injury issues left Kyky Tandy and his jumper on the bench, but the Muskies' 4-23 from beyond the arc and 14-24 from the line weren't going to be redeemed by one man. Those issues hamstrung Xavier at times last year, and they were in full view tonight. X was 25-37 from inside the arc, which gives some hope that a strategic tweak or two can limit the damage from mediocre three-point shooting, but leaving 10 points on the line is the kind of thing that will cost you close games.
Basketball is back
Xavier is 1-0 on the year, which is more than a lot of teams will be able to say at the end of the night. Rinse and repeat (but better) on Friday. We finally have basketball to talk about again.