No. 9 Xavier, UNI square off for 2nd time in week
Just six days after No. 9 Xavier and Northern Iowa faced off against each other, the two teams will go at it again on Saturday at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati.
Xavier (5-0) will be trying to prove in the noon matchup that its 67-59 win in the championship game of the Tire Pros Invitational in Orlando, Fla., was no fluke. Northern Iowa (3-1) will be taking aim at avenging their only loss in the young season.
Northern Iowa, one of the country's top mid-major programs annually, isn't used to losing. The Panthers have a 4-2 record since the start of the 2014-15 season against Top 25 teams and were 3-0 last season against ranked opponents.
To get to the championship game last week, Northern Iowa took down Arizona State and Oklahoma.
"We've been playing big schools for a long time now and we've beaten them," senior guard Jeremy Morgan told reporters this week. "It's not easy, but we know we can do it."
Early season nonconference wins against ranked opponents will help build the resume when NCAA Tournament bids are handed out in March.
"It's a good opportunity for us to be able to go out and play a good team like that twice in a row just to prove we can play with anybody," UNI junior forward Klint Carlson said.
In the first meeting, Xavier played tough defense that pressured Northern Iowa in 17 turnovers and limited 6-foot-10 forward Bennett Koch to 11 points and forced him into six turnovers in the paint.
"We're going to make some adjustments," Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobsen said. "We're going to have to be better when it goes in the post, defend some of their actions better.
"There's certainly things we'll have to do a little different, do a little better, but it won't be a brand new game plan."
Xavier guards Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner were the leading scorers with 21 and 17 points, respectively, in the game last Sunday.
"I think they're going to bring their 'A' game when they come back," Bluiett said. "They've kind of got some motivation now, so, you know, I think we'll be ready for it as well. I think it'll be pretty exciting."
The Musketeers beat Missouri, Clemson and Northern Iowa on their way to the title in Orlando. They'll be facing a nonconference opponent in back-to-back games for the first time since it faced off twice in a row against Yale in 1960.
"It doesn't concern me," Xavier coach Chris Mack said of the back-to-back games against the same opponent. "We'll both have a lot of familiarity with each other. (Saturday) is a new ballgame and a chance to grow and continue to get better."