Xavier aims for 5th straight win vs. East Tennessee State
CINCINNATI — The 10th-ranked Xavier Musketeers had the week off for semester exams, coming off a highly successful two weeks with four straight victories, including wins over then-No. 16 Baylor and No. 11 Cincinnati.
The Musketeers’ streak catapulted them up the national rankings and added early luster to their NCAA Tournament resume. Xavier’s only loss this season was to undefeated and 5th-ranked Arizona State.
“We don’t necessarily worry about a resume win, or building a resume,” said head coach Chris Mack. “I think our team has great respect for the teams that are on our schedule. The only thing I worry about is that our team has the hunger to get better.”
The Musketeers (9-1) will aim for their fifth straight win on Saturday against East Tennessee State (6-3) at Cintas Center, where XU has won 37 consecutive nonconference games dating to the 2012 season.
Xavier leads the all-time series 2-1, including wins in the last two meetings. XU won the last meeting 80-55 on Dec. 4, 1999 at Cincinnati Gardens. The Buccaneers’ last win over Xavier was 82-79 on Dec. 27, 1991 at Cincinnati Gardens.
The key to Xavier’s success this season has been its overall offensive efficiency.
The Musketeers rank second in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, and ranks second in the Big East Conference and 10th in the nation in scoring offense.
Mack said his players put in some work to improve their shooting, but he also gave a nod to sophomore point guard Quentin Goodin, and the improvements he has made since being thrown into the fire late last season when Edmond Sumner was injured.
“We probably shot the ball more in practice in the preseason than we ever have,” Mack said. “I also think Quentin Goodin is very underappreciated around the country. He’s not underappreciated by his coaches, or his teammates.”
Goodin leads the Big East with 6.5 assists per game, helping Xavier rank third in the league and 21st nationally with 18.2 assists per game.
“He creates shots for his teammates,” said Mack. “He’s strong, he can get in the lane at will. And, he’s really starting to do what the game tells him to do, which is a sign of experience.”
If Goodin is the creator, Trevon Bluiett is the finisher. Bluiett averages 21.7 points per game, good for third in the Big East.
The Musketeers are deep and talented. That said, East Tennessee State might present Xavier with some challenges with its depth.
Senior guard Desonta Bradford leads the Buccaneers with 12.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, and is among three players averaging in double-figures scoring.
But, ETSU goes 11 deep on its bench with nine players averaging 16 minutes or more. In Sunday’s 94-48 win over Hiwassee College, the Buccaneers had 13 players log more than 10 minutes and each of them scored.
“Maybe the first time in my career I’ve had 13 guys play double-digit minutes,” head coach Steve Forbes said, according to the Johnson City Press. “You have a game like this and everybody goes home with a smile.”