High-powered Xavier taking steps to being special
CINCINNATI — It’s just two games into a college basketball season that will span five months but Myles Davis has vibe for this Xavier University team. It’s a strong positive vibe.
"This is a special team," said Davis after the Musketeers beat Long Beach State 97-74 Tuesday night at the Cintas Center for their second consecutive victory and second straight game topping the 90-point mark. Five different Xavier players scored in double figures, led by freshman Trevon Bluiett’s 20-points. Davis added 15 points as the Musketeers built upon a 13-point lead with 7:40 left.
It was a methodical win, at least as methodical as 97-point performances go. Xavier never trailed, although the game was tied twice in the first half and Long Beach State, which started five seniors, was as close as nine points with 11 minutes left in the game. Xavier got its lead and then pulled away by playing unselfishly, a characteristic which may become the top attribute of this team.
"When we went to Brazil I think that’s what started it all for us," said Davis, referring to a team trip to South America in August. "It’s a lot of younger guys on the team but we just clicked and everybody is just happy playing. I just think that it’s great to be on the court with other people because you never know who you’re going to get. I might have 15 and Brandon Randolph have 15.
"We’re not expecting just one person to score the ball like we were last year with Semaj (Christon) when the focus was just on him and Matt (Stainbrook). We have so many weapons now, it’s just amazing playing with this group of guys. I just have that feeling that we can do special things this year."
Christon was the go-to man for the Musketeers last season. He’s now developing his game professionally in the NBA D-League.
There are no shortage of offensive options despite his departure. Besides Bluiett and Davis, freshman guard J.P. Macura had 17 points, including making 4-of-5 3-pointers. Junior Remy Abell, who sat out last season as a transfer from Indiana, added 13 points while Stainbrook had 11 points and seven rebounds. Point guard Dee Davis made his first two 3-point attempts in the opening five minutes and then didn’t score the rest of the game.
He did have a game-high nine assists, however, among the 24 assists the Musketeers had as a team. They turned the ball over just seven times while forcing 15 turnovers by Long Beach State.
Maybe it’s not too early to buy into the thought that this team has the makings of something special.
"We have good kids but everybody has their individual goals," said head coach Chris Mack. "You know they go to college to become a good player and maybe get opportunities beyond college. I think from that standpoint they have to buy into team comes first. It’s a heck of a lot more important than what you maybe have to sacrifice individually, which isn’t always easy, especially where each of these guys come from. But that’s what special teams do."
The last time Xavier scored 90 or more points in each of its first two games was the 1997-98 team that featured the three-guard lineup of Gary Lumpkin, Lenny Brown and Darnell Williams with James Posey coming off the bench as its sixth man. That team topped 90 points in four of its first five games, coming up two points shy of making it 5-for-5 and scored at least 90 points 10 times total as it went on to win its first Atlantic 10 tournament championship.
Long Beach State isn’t a pushover team but Xavier is going to run into stiffer competition down the road, especially once it gets into Big East conference play. It won’t score 90 points a game, but it should be fun to watch the Musketeers develop along the way.
"We’re on the very, very, very beginning stages of the season and I’d like to think if guys come to practice every day with the right attitude that different nights different guys will have their time in the sun," said Mack. "At the end of the day, it’s all about our team, competing, winning and just believing in one another and not necessarily what am I getting out of this individually."