Xavier Musketeers guard J.P. Macura goes to the basket during the second half against the Buffalo Bulls at the Cintas Center. Xavier won 86-53. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)
Frank Victores/Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
CINCINNATI (AP) — After a sloppy opening win, No. 11 Xavier spent its time working on defense. It was much improved the second time around.
J.P. Macura scored 18 points and the Musketeers took advantage of 38 personal fouls by Buffalo, pulling away for an 86-53 victory on Monday night.
The Musketeers (2-0) quickly opened a double-digit lead and got the balance back in their offense after relying on career highs for points by Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner in their opening 84-81 win over Lehigh. Bluiett and Sumner had 13 points apiece on Monday.
“We took a step forward today,” said Rashid Gaston , who had nine points and seven rebounds.
The defense was much better, too, allowing few uncontested shots.
“Practice these last past couple days have really geared toward defense,” Gaston said. “We had to play more team defense.”
Buffalo (1-1) couldn’t keep up with Xavier’s quickness and quickly got into foul trouble. The Bulls trailed 42-22 late in the first half and had more fouls (23) than points.
Two Bulls fouled out with 8 minutes left in the game, and Xavier went 28 of 38 at the line. Macura made all of his 10 free throws.
“Our team used Buffalo’s aggressiveness to our advantage,” coach Chris Mack said.
Nick Perkins led the Bulls with 15 points, and they shot only 31 percent from the field. Some of the Bulls complained about the many fouls called, but coach Nick Oats didn’t see it that way.
“We need to learn to play defense without fouling,” Oats said. “Our guys said they got (bad calls), but those officials worked the tournament. They didn’t cost us 30 fouls.”
With the big lead, Mack was able to use some of the freshmen who struggled in the opening win. Guard Quentin Goodin was tentative in the opener, but had 11 points and four assists after the coaching staff urged him to relax.
“I wasn’t really scared, just hesitant,” Goodin said. “Tonight I played loose, started having fun, and it worked out. I just played the way I did when they recruited me.”
A LOT OF WHISTLES
The officiating crew of John Gaffney, Brent Hampton and Alfred Smith also called 21 fouls on Xavier for 59 total. The Bulls went 13 of 21 on free throws.
TOUGH AT HOME
The Musketeers improved to 218-31 at the Cintas Center.
Xavier slipped from No. 7 — the highest preseason ranking in its history — to No. 11 in Monday’s poll, based upon the Musketeers’ sloppy win over Lehigh. They looked much better in this one.
Buffalo: Blake Hamilton, the Bulls’ top returning scorer and rebounder, missed most of the preseason workouts with a broken non-shooting hand. He had 11 points and eight rebounds in a 76-66 win over Niagara on Friday. Hamilton fouled out against Xavier with eight points and three rebounds.
Xavier: The Musketeers had three turnovers and defensive lapses in the final 61 seconds of their win over Lehigh, so holding onto the ball was a point of emphasis. They turned it over only nine times.
“The biggest part with the turnovers is we just had to settle down,” Gaston said.
Buffalo: Hosts Nazareth on Thursday, the Bulls’ only home game out of their first nine. Their next home game is Dec. 10 against Coppin State.
Xavier: Plays Missouri on Thursday in the opening round of the Tire Pros Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.