Revenge tour continues for No. 13 Xavier versus Colorado
CINCINNATI — Just call it Xavier’s revenge tour 2017.
Already this season, the No. 13 Musketeers have avenged losses from last season to Baylor and crosstown rival Cincinnati, and a loss at the buzzer in the NCAA Tournament to Wisconsin two years ago.
Next up: Colorado.
“We got Wisconsin already, we got Baylor already, we got Cincinnati already,” Xavier forward Sean O’Mara said. “They’re next on that list. We’re checking them off.”
The Musketeers (8-1) started last season 7-0 before losing at No. 9 Baylor. Four days later, the Buffaloes pulled off a surprising 68-66 victory over Xavier in Boulder. Coincidentally, Xavier also was ranked 13th at the time.
The Musketeers had one of the best weeks in program history last week with wins over No. 23 Baylor and No. 17 Cincinnati.
Xavier has won 36 straight non-conference games at home dating to the 2012 season, and coach Chris Mack made sure this week that his players were aware of what has transpired around college basketball in recent days, with No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 5 Florida both being upset on their home courts to lesser opponents, and No. 2 Kansas losing to Washington in Kansas City, Mo.
“You can’t shield your guys from people asking about a letdown,” Mack said. “You watch a game like Ball State and Notre Dame and it really sends a message to our guys. I texted them (Tuesday night after the Irish loss) and said I didn’t want it to happen to us.”
Colorado (7-1) suffered its only loss at Colorado State last Saturday. The top scorers in last year’s win over Xavier are gone. McKinley Wright leads the Buffs with 15.6 points per game. He’s among three players in double-figures. Wright and George King, who scores 14.4 points per game, are their top 3-point threats.
Colorado outrebounds its opponents by 8.9 per game. The Buffaloes had a 58-30 rebounding advantage in Wednesday’s win over New Mexico, helping them overcome 23 turnovers.
“It certainly was not a thing of beauty,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told the Daily Camera. “We did what we had to do to get a win. The turnovers were something we knew coming into this game was going to be an issue. We talked about it, we practiced, we prepared for it, but we didn’t handle it real well.”
Xavier forces more than 11 turnovers per game, but also commits more than 12.
The Musketeers were a little better in that regard in Wednesday’s 96-70 victory over Kent State with nine turnovers, five of which came in the final nine minutes.
“The only turnovers we made against Kent were being lazy with the ball, or too aggressive throwing passes that aren’t necessarily open,” Mack said.
One thing to look out for on Saturday is a breakout game for Xavier guard J.P. Macura.
Macura, known for his constant chatter and assertiveness on the court, is averaging 12.6 points but has only 11 combined over the past two games, while contributing in other ways. Wednesday night against Kent State, Macura had four points, but had five assists, four rebounds and a block.
“He’ll have games where he gets 20, and games where he gets more ‘3’ attempts,” Mack said. “J.P. is a very unselfish player. He’s a big part of our offense whether he’s scoring or not.”