This was a game that had some of the makings of the typical trap game. Coming off an emotional, highly competitive victory? Check. Facing an opponent who is riding high off of walloping some low majors and pulling off a comeback win over a mid major? Check. The game tipping at noon on a Sunday, when most people are still recuperating from Saturday night or in attendance at their chosen house of worship (or both)? Check. And yet, for all of those factors, Xavier not only avoided slipping up against Norfolk State, they absolutely dominated an opponent for 40 minutes for the first time this season. There were few blemishes in a performance which capped a week that may send Xavier back into the Top 25 before the Preseason NIT tips off on Wednesday.
Much like against Niagara, Xavier got off to a hot start from deep, cashing out a pair of threes before the Spartans managed to complete a field goal. Unlike the season opener, Xavier supported the early barrage from deep with bully ball on the interior and kept the momentum going throughout the entirety of the first half. A welcome sight was that of Nate Johnson (20/3/1) again finding his range from deep, and his 4-8 would have grabbed the attention were it not for the otherworldly shooting of Adam Kunkel (26/4/1), who torched the nets with an 8-10 performance from beyond the arc. The only Musketeer joining them in double figures was Colby Jones (10/13/2), who rode 5-6 shooting from inside the arc to his entire tally.
The second half represented more of procession than a basketball contest, as Xavier sought to prevent their 29 point halftime lead from slipping away. Joining the fray for the first time this season were Ben Stanley (5/4/2), who looked good scoring inside the arc, Cesare Edwards (2/3/0), who took a couple of jumpers that showed his confidence in his face up game, and Kyky Tandy (0/2/0), who assisted Edwards’ first collegiate bucket and only attempted one shot in his 6 minutes on the floor. As Xavier looks ahead to a more rigorous schedule, the minutes and confidence gained for this trio may prove useful in helping get them up to speed and ready to further bolster Xavier’s rotation.
Besides that there is not much to say about a game that Xavier should have won by a bunch and went on to win by more than that. 25 of the 33 makes were assisted, Xavier only let Norfolk have back 14 of their 54 misses, the Musketeers blocked 11 shots and shot 45% from deep as a team. The only notable blemishes were the 8-16 mark from the line and the fact that Xavier turned the ball over 17 times, 8 of which were committed by primary ballhandlers in Scruggs and Odom. The Spartans showed up on the schedule as a tune up game for the tests to come over Thanksgiving and provided just that.