To say Xavier struggled to find their footing without Colby Jones would be putting it kindly, but some big time shots from Adam Kunkel (21/2/2) and the two headed monster of Jack Nunge (23/7/2) and Zach Freemantle (15/13/10) were enough to get this win across the line for Xavier. The takeaways from a game which was not the best advertisement you will ever see for beautiful basketball:
Turnovers might hold this team back
Against Morgan State, who has ranked in the top 30 in the nation in turnover rate the past three seasons, Xavier turned the ball over 13 times before halftime and found themselves in a competitive game longer than they probably anticipated. Tonight, Xavier had 10 first half turnovers and no 30-5 run, meaning they trailed at the half despite doubling the Stags up on points in the paint 20-10. The second half saw Xavier reduce their turnover total to 7, which is still probably not where Coach Miller would like it to be, but the fact that Fairfield based their gameplan around slowing the pace and struggled to score in the second half is a big part of what kept Xavier’s profligacy from costing them tonight.
Zach Freemantle is not back to his former self...and that is good
Tonight, Freemantle became the first player since Myles Davis to post a triple double for Xavier, finishing with 15/13/10. His previous career high in assists was 4, so what we saw tonight was a new facet of his game emerging as his high-low pairing with Jack Nunge proved too much for Fairfield to handle down the stretch. The 6 turnovers credited to him show this is a work in progress, but Freemantle was operating closer to the peak of his capabilities tonight than we have seen him in some time, even throwing in a pair of thunderous blocks to round off a committed performance on both ends of the court. It was not a perfect performance by any means, but it was a positive sign that there may be yet more to come from the senior big man than Xavier fans had imagined.
Adam Kunkel can put the team on his back
With Xavier down a key piece tonight, one might imagine the offense would not click through the gears like it did to open the Montana game. That being said, few could have predicted just how slowly Xavier would start this game, falling behind by 10 in the first 5 and half minutes. As the Musketeers tried to keep their head above water, they would go 10 first half minutes without a field goal that was either scored or assisted by Kunkel as he catalyzed the rally that would bring Xavier back into the game. Kunkel showed up on campus with a reputation for being able to get points in bunches, but tonight he was able to spark the team with more that just buckets, adding a pair of steals and assists to help keep Xavier in the game before Freemantle and Nunge took over.
On to Indiana
Ultimately, Xavier went out and won without a key piece tonight by a comfortable margin in the end. The key test this week is still to come and while we learned some things about this team tonight, it is safe to say the Hoosiers will be a sterner test and a truer reflection of where this team is right now.