Today was the kind of game that could be a banana peel for a Xavier team still figuring out its rotation and overall identity. A Noon tip, the day after Thanksgiving, with no students on campus, against an opponent who had beaten a top 10 team on the road 6 days ago, there were elements that could have lended themselves to a lethargic performance and a tight affair. Instead, Xavier shot the lights out on their way to a 24 point halftime lead and cruised to a winning start to their 6 game homestand.
A Step Forward for Olivari
Xavier was led today by 22 from the Rice transfer, who has endured a slow shooting start to his Xavier career but cashed out 4 threes in the first half and set the tone for Xavier’s best shooting performance of the young season with his 9-16/4-8/0-0 marks. It is hard to overstate how important Olivari’s shooting will be against Xavier’s sterner tests this season and the reemergence of the player who torched Texas for 28 last season would be a welcome sight.
McKnight does it all
Off the heels of humbling the far more heralded Aidan Mahaney, McKnight followed up today with 11/8/8 with a single turnover and another dogged defensive performance. Xavier is likely never going to ask McKnight to shoot on over a quarter of possessions like he did last season at Western Kentucky, but he has shown an aptitude to adapt his game to help facilitate for his teammates and reaped the rewards with 8 assists on a hot shooting day for X.
Ousmane may be playing himself out of time
After fouling out in a total of 19 minutes against Purdue and Washington, Abou Ousmane put in a solid 14 minutes off the bench against St. Mary’s, having yielded his starting spot to Sasa Ciani. Today, he once again limited himself by receiving a Flagrant 2 for a dead ball headbutt with 14:25 left in a game Xavier led by 23 points at the time. His 6/6/1 line seems fine enough until you factor in that he committed 6 of Xavier’s 13 turnovers today in just 13 minutes. Combined with Lazar Djokovic posting 10/4/2 today and continuing to show an aptitude to stretch the defense from three, Ousmane’s continued trend of making himself unavailable is not a promising harbinger for his future prospects of maintaining the prominent spot in the rotation he had to begin the season.
Nemo continues to impress
Gytis Nemeiksa has likely been the Musketeer who has exceeded expectations the most thus far. His sheer relentlessness on the offensive glass, feel for his strong midrange game, and ability and willingness to step out and shoot from deep have made him a vital cog in a Xavier frontcourt that is trying to find its way without Freemantle and Hunter. Today his 14/6/2 came another efficient 6-7/2-3/0-0 shooting line and he now sports a team best 46% mark from behind the arc. After a performance against St. Mary’s where he took a back seat on offense and never really got going, he was back to what he has consistently been for Xavier this season today.