Xavier takes on Wright State before three power conference foes
Xavier’s first 9-0 start since 2008-09 is almost a certainty. Beyond that, things become far more unpredictable.
The 12th-ranked Musketeers shouldn’t have much trouble at home against Wright State on Tuesday night, but after that a span of Cincinnati, Auburn and Wake Forest figures to better prepare them for Big East play.
Even so, coach Chris Mack maintains the Raiders (3-5) – or anyone for that matter – are capable of causing Xavier (8-0) problems.
"It’s a never-ending process, a never-ending struggle," said Mack, whose team has matched its 2011-12 start as its best in his seven seasons at the school. "… Nobody’s immune. If you don’t bring it on game night, you’ll lose."
That must mean the Musketeers brought it in Saturday’s 95-64 home win over Western Kentucky, posting their top scoring night of the season and shooting a season-best 57.1 percent. After averaging 77.4 points and shooting 40.6 percent through five games, Xavier has come to life with 90.7 points on 51.9 percent in its last three.
Trevon Bluiett had 21 points and 10 rebounds against the Hilltoppers to match a career high from last season, James Farr had a career-high 18 off the bench and Myles Davis added a season-high 16. Bluiett, who leads the team with 15.1 points per game, is shooting 51.2 percent in his last four after the sophomore hit 40.0 in his first four.
The 6-foot-6 guard is also averaging 7.8 rebounds a season after grabbing 4.2. He and the 6-10 Farr, who averages 8.5 rebounds in 19.5 minutes, pace the team’s 13.6 rebounding advantage – one of the biggest margins in the country.
Mack was most impressed with what his team did on defense.
Western Kentucky entered shooting 42.2 percent from 3-point range but went 5 of 22 from beyond the arc. Xavier has held its last two opponents to 23.7 percent from outside, and that could again come into play against a Wright State team that hits 40.3 percent of its 3s.
"Probably the best 3-point shooting team that we had faced so far," said Mack of Western Kentucky. "… That can change a game in a hurry. We really concentrated on trying to make sure that the transition 3 wasn’t available."
Xavier has won 20 straight home games against nonconference opponents by an average of 17.6 points, while Wright State has dropped its last 13 against the Top 25 by an average of 16.4.
That includes a 78-63 loss at then-No. 2 Kentucky on Nov. 20, but the Raiders are coming off a far less respected double-digit loss. They fell 59-46 at home to Georgia State on Friday, making 16 field goals and shooting 32.7 percent two games after making 12 and hitting 23.1 percent in a 66-39 loss at George Mason.
They haven’t topped 68 points since their 77-69 season-opening win over South Dakota. Inside the arc, Wright State is shooting 39.8 percent for one of the worst marks from the 346 Division I schools.
Against Georgia State, reserve JT Yoho was the only Wright State player in double figures, going 3 of 6 from 3-point range for 15 points while the starting five combined to score just 28.
Yoho averages a team-best 11.4 points while Joe Thomasson is down to 11.1 after being limited to six points in each of his last three games while going 6 of 20.