CINCINNATI (AP) The rematch was no match at all. Xavier’s defense made sure of it.
J.P. Macura scored 18 points, and Xavier’s defense dug in during a dominant first half, sending the ninth-ranked Musketeers to a 64-42 victory over Northern Iowa on Saturday.
Xavier (6-0) completely controlled a matchup of teams playing for the second time in six days. The Musketeers beat Northern Iowa 67-59 for championship of Tire Pros Invitational in Orlando last Sunday.
This time, it was no contest. Xavier knew exactly what to expect the second time around.
“I think it’s easy,” coach Chris Mack said . “Northern Iowa always runs the same three plays to start the game. I’m sure the players are like, `We’ve got it.’ I was really excited about our mindset today.”
Edmond Sumner had 14 points and seven assists, making Xavier’s offense get into a flow quickly.
The Musketeers looked very comfortable in their second go-round against the Panthers (3-2). Northern Iowa had trouble finding open shots while Xavier raced ahead 30-10, going 4 of 13 from the field with seven turnovers as Xavier’s defense gave its best performance of the season.
The Musketeers led 35-12 at halftime, the fewest points they had allowed in any half for 34 years.
“That’s the best half we’ve played since I’ve been here,” said Macura , a junior. “We were talking really well. We were in each other’s gaps.”
Xavier pushed the lead to 26 points early in the second half and was never threatened. Jeremy Morgan scored 14 points – all in the second half – for Northern Iowa. Morgan had 20 points in their game on Sunday, but missed all of his four shots in the first half while Xavier took control.
The Panthers had made at least 10 3-pointers in each of their first four games this season, going 10 of 24 against Xavier on Sunday. They were only 6 of 18 in the rematch. Xavier had a 42-20 edge in rebounds, getting 15 on offense.
“They made it obvious that they did a better job of preparing their guys for what was the rematch, if you will,” Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. “They outplayed us on the glass, they outplayed us in a lot of areas. They outplayed us in the areas that mattered.”
Northern Iowa shot 33 percent from the field and had only seven assists.
“I thought the difference in the game was our defensive effort at the outset,” Mack said. “Good teams lock in on the challenge in the moment. We defended at a really high level, as good as I can remember.”
Northern Iowa: The Panthers are 17-37 all-time against ranked teams, including 2-17 on the road. Both of those road wins came at Wichita State – last season and in 2006.
Xavier: Kaiser Gates got into a game for the first time. The sophomore forward was counted upon to be an integral part of Xavier’s overhauled front line, but tore cartilage in his left knee and had surgery a month ago. Gates played 11 minutes, missed his only shot, got two rebounds and picked up three fouls – not bad for someone who’s had only three practices.
“He had a phenomenal summer,” Mack said. “He’s in great position as we move forward.”
SEE YOU SOON
Xavier hadn’t played consecutive games against a nonconference team since it faced Yale twice in 1960. It was the eighth time in school history that the Musketeers played someone in back-to-back games out of conference.
Northern Iowa’s Klint Carlson picked up third foul with 7:48 left in the first half, even though the Panthers were playing zone. Carlson finished with 11 points and three rebounds in 24 minutes. Forward Bennett Koch fouled out with 8:15 to go after scoring five points and getting two rebounds.
Xavier played its most complete game yet and has shown improvement each time out after a couple of close opening wins.
Northern Iowa hosts George Mason on Wednesday.
Xavier hosts North Dakota State on Tuesday.
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