Xavier sort of opened their season last night against Kentucky Wesleyan. They ended up winning 80-62 and got 22/13/5 from Zach Freemantle. If that sounds like it was all just business as usual for the Musketeers it was, but only in that usual the last couple years has meant struggling to put away teams they should have hammered. If you loved last year’s wins over Niagara and Kent State or really enjoyed beating Bradley by one, this was right up your alley. This, on the other hand, was just an exhibition game. There’s plenty of time to get things going in the right direction.
The double post is ready to go
As mentioned, Big Frosty went for 22/13/5 and only needed 14 shots to get that. He looks a little more muscular this year and his 33 minutes led the team. By all accounts his defense was still very Zach Freemantlesque, but at least he was productive on the other end. Jack Nunge chipped in with 11/9/0 and played a complimentary role all night. He took eight shots as the two combined for a reasonable 38.5% of Xavier’s shot attempts. That kind of production and emphasis on getting the ball inside is a good sign.
Desmond Claude can do this
Welcome to @CintasCenter, Desmond @DesmondClaude #LetsGoX pic.twitter.com/40VeN8INeI— Xavier Basketball (@XavierMBB) November 3, 2022
So that’s cool.
The defense tightened up when it mattered
Xavier’s defense was not generally good tonight, but it did close the game by not allowing a point in the final 6:13. For the game Wesleyan shot .328/.313/.857 and in the second half they only scored 18 points. If Xavier holds teams to that kind of shooting line, they’re going to be just fine. Doing it by being mediocre for 30 minutes and then brilliant for 10 is rather playing with fire, but hopefully that gets ironed out.
Dieonte Miles and Cesare Edwards are nowhere
Miles and Edwards combined for two minutes tonight . I don’t need to tell you that not playing in a preseason exhibition is not a good sign. If Coach Miller is going to ride Freemantle and Nunge with Colby Jones as a step in four man, minutes could be hard to come by for Xavier’s other two bigs. Miles is a defensive weapon, but offense is going to move this team. Edwards can really score, but even on this team some defense is going to be required. Right now Coach Miller doesn’t seem to trust his backup bigs to play both ends.
Kyky Tandy is in the picture
Tandy, weighing about 15 pounds less than he did last season, didn’t set the world ablaze but he did play 16 minutes, shoot the ball six times, and grab a couple boards. With Adam Kunkel out with a foot injury (that shouldn’t limit him in the regular season) there was plenty of time for Tandy to have an impact. Even if he wasn’t pouring in the buckets, he did well enough to merit playing more than any other bench guard. The kid has been doggedly persistent to get to this point and it seems to have earned him a shot.
The freshmen are freshmen
Desmond Claude was aggressive, hunted his shot, and found ways to be involved. He also turned the ball over three times against two assists in 33 minutes. His play tonight was that of a scoring guard who is trying to adjust to speed he hasn’t seen yet. Kam Craft was 0-3 from the floor and only scored by dint of a made free throw, but he only turned the ball over once in his 13 minutes of play. Neither is the finished article yet (obviously) but neither looked overwhelmed.
There’s really only so much to take from a game against a DII team. Colby Jones is very good at basketball. Souley Boum played the point well. The student section sold out and made some serious noise considering it was a midweek game against a nobody. The story of this team will be written in early 2023, not November of 2022. Basketball is back though, and Xavier has made a winning start of it.