James Farr

Associated Press

No. 23 Xavier makes statement, blows out Dayton

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With in-state rivals No. 23 Xavier and Dayton meeting for the first time since 2013, there was a lot of anticipation for Sunday’s AdvoCare Invitational title game in Orlando. But after 20 competitive minutes the Musketeers removed any doubt, blowing out the Flyers by a final score of 90-61.

The depth, talent, experience and toughness of Chris Mack’s team was on display throughout the event, most especially Sunday evening. Eight players scored at least eight points¬†against Dayton, and as they had throughout the tournament Xavier dominated on the boards. The Musketeers grabbed 37.1 percent of its offensive rebound opportunities and limited Dayton to just four offensive rebounds, turning that into a 17-2 edge in second chance points.

Add in 27 Xavier points off of 22 Dayton turnovers, and it was clear who dictated the terms of engagement in this much-anticipated meeting.

The offensive rebounding and turnovers issues took their toll on the Flyers, who managed to keep the game close until late in the first half. But Xavier was able to stretch out the margin to eight by the intermission, and a 21-0 run pushed the margin out to 29 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game. Dayton’s gotten off to a good start, despite not having the suspended Dyshawn Pierre, and they’re going to win a lot of games this season.

But there was a clear difference between these two teams Sunday night, with the deep Musketeers looking like one that can not only build on last season’s Sweet 16 run but exceed it.

On the season six players are averaging at least 9.7 points per game, which makes it hard for the opposition to focus its defensive efforts on one or two players. Jalen Reynolds and James Farr can take control of games in the paint. Trevon Bluiett has the ability to score from just about anywhere on the floor, and this team doesn’t lack for perimeter shooters either. Add in a redshirt freshman point guard in Edmond Sumner who’s hit the ground running in filling the role left vacant by the graduation of Dee Davis, and this is a team capable of being a factor nationally.

Xavier’s reached the Sweet 16 in five of the last eight seasons, so success is to be expected from this program. And if their start to this season is any indication, this group of Musketeers is more than capable of not only challenging Villanova atop the Big East but adding to that recent run of success.

Xavier whips crosstown rival Cincinnati in spite of turnover-filled night

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After going 0-3 in The Bahamas, Xavier needed to turn things around with the start of Big East play rapidly approaching. And after wins over Bowling Green and Evansville, their matchup with crosstown rival Cincinnati was supposed to represent another stiff test for Chris Mack’s team. But thanks to some hot shooting from the field overall and from beyond the arc, the Musketeers’ 20 turnovers did minimal damage in their 64-47 beating of the Bearcats.

Yes, in a game in which they posted a turnover percentage of 33.3% (turning the ball over on one of every three possessions) and point guard Semaj Christon dealt with early foul trouble Xavier won by a comfortable margin. Why?. Because of what the Musketeers were able to do when they held onto the ball. Xavier shot 11-for-16 from beyond the arc and 56.4% overall, and they assisted on 16 of their 22 made field goals.

By comparison Cincinnati shot 33.3% from the field and could only convert those 20 turnovers into 14 points (Xavier scored 15 points on ten Cincinnati turnovers). With the Bearcats shooting as poorly as they did, and leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick attempting just nine shots from the field (he was averaging 12.8 attempts/game entering Saturday), Xavier was able to get away with their turnover problem.

When they held onto the basketball Xavier was very good offensively, with Justin Martin (17 points) and James Farr (ten points) leading a balanced effort with five players scoring at least seven points. Turnovers were a problem in The Bahamas, as Xavier turned the ball over 19 times in two of the three games, but on the season this is a team that ranks second in the Big East in turnover percentage.

With the jet-quick Semaj Christon running the show Xavier has a capable floor general, and newcomers like Myles Davis and Brandon Randolph will only get better with more experience. Thanks to their effort on the defensive end, and what they were able to do with the possessions that didn’t end with a turnover, Xavier wrestled away bragging rights from their city rival.