No. 6 Xavier got 21 points and nine boards from Edmond Sumner while Trevon Bluiett added 17 points as the Musketeers outlasted Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, 78-70.
Xavier was down by as much as 18 points in the first half, as the Demon Deacons came out scorching from the field, but the lead did not last long in the second half. The Musketeers used a 21-4 run in the first six minutes to take their first lead of the game. Combined, Sumner and Bluiett scored 27 of their 38 points in the second half.
And those are the two horses that Xavier is going to have to ride if they are serious about winning a Big East title. I’m not sure there is a conference that is more competitive at the top than the Big East right now, and whereas a team like Michigan State only has to play Maryland and Purdue once each during the Big Ten season, the Big East plays a true round robin.
Xavier plays No. 9 Butler at home and away. They play No. 10 Providence at home and away. And they play No. 17 Villanova, the program that has gone 32-4 in the Big East over the course of the last two seasons, home and away. That’s a meat grinder of a schedule, and if Xavier comes out the way they did on Tuesday night when they play at Villanova on New Year’s Eve, I’m not sure they’ll be able to come back.
In fact, I don’t think it’s crazy to say that this was exactly the kind of test that the Musketeers needed to close out non-conference play. They’re undefeated and ranked sixth in the country, and that’s the kind of thing that can go to a team’s head. There’s nothing like a first half beatdown on the road against a middle-of-the-pack (at best?) ACC team to get egos in check.
There was more to this game than just a random non-conference tilt. It was the fifth iteration of the Skip Prosser Classic. Prosser was the head coach at Xavier from 1994-2001 before taking over at Xavier, and Chris Mack was his assistant at Wake Forest from 2001-2004 before he went back to Xavier. Prosser died in 2007 from a heart attack.