Facing a Georgetown squad with just ten available scholarship players, Xavier seemed poised to get back on track after suffering their first Big East loss at Creighton on Sunday afternoon. But things didn’t work out that way in the game’s first 20 minutes, with the combination of Georgetown’s hot three-point shooting and Xavier’s lack of both effort and execution being the biggest factors.
The argument that a Georgetown team that entered the game shooting just 33% from beyond the arc wouldn’t duplicate its 63.6% first half could certainly be made, but that would only be the case if Chris Mack’s team showed greater effort defensively. And that’s exactly what happened, as the Musketeers outscored Georgetown 44-14 over the final 15 minutes to win 80-67 in Cincinnati.
What happened? Xavier got tougher on the defensive end, no longer allowing Georgetown to simply go through its movements with little or no resistance. As a team the Hoyas shot 37.5% in the second half and made just three three-pointers, with senior guard Markel Starks shooting 2-for-8 from the field. Also of note is the fact that the Hoyas committed twice as many turnovers in the second half (six) as they did in the first (three).
Offensively Xavier did a much better job of utilizing their balance (four players finished in double figures) and attacking after they spent much of the first half slowed down (and possibly even perplexed) by the Georgetown zone. Dee Davis scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and Semaj Christon added ten (18 for the game) for the Musketeers, who shot 57.7% from the field in the second half and scored 1.55 points per possession.
Xavier’s improved execution allowed them to finally take advantage of Georgetown’s lack of depth, pulling away to win by a margin that can lead some to forget how difficult the first half was.
In regards to Xavier’s hopes of contending for the Big East title the win was a big one, as they’ll play five of their next seven league games away from the Cintas Center. Back in October the expectation was that Xavier would be an improved basketball team, but few thought them capable of being a contender in their new league. If they execute at the level they did over the final 15 minutes on Wednesday night, the Musketeers are capable of doing so.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.