MUSKIES ACE TEAM 96 OPENER!!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 11/11/2017

Things couldn't have gone much better Friday evening at Cintas. Xavier dominated Morehead State from the get go bolting to a blow-out 101-49 victory. Coaches love intense focus and fast starts. Team 96 delivered in spades!! J.P Macura answered any questions about injuries with a personal 8 point run in the first two minutes. Morehead time-out!! XU 8 MSU 0. Macura got his work in without extending himself(just 22 minutes-18 points-6-7 FG-5-7 FT-3 rebounds-4 assists-0 turnovers-5 steals). He dunked and dived and led the fastbreak and consumed about three bananas after the game. No tee-shirt this season for J.P. to showcase his enhanced guns. I'm thinking Thunder Dan Marjele or Wally Szcerbiak now when I watch #55.

Trevon Bluiett shot the new stage lights out despite limited practice time. He looked in prime health and played with optimum efficiency(22 minutes-25 points-9-12 FG-5-7 from three-2-2 FTs-5 rebounds-3 assists-o turnovers). Tre moves into 14th spot on the All Time Xavier Scoring List at 1610 points passing Stan Kimbrough(1596 in just 3 seasons). Bluiett ran the floor smoothly with his sleeker sub 200 pound physique and shot it confidently.

Tyrique Jones started in the post at the "5" at center(pick a label) and owned the lane(11 points-9 rebounds-4 blocks). The goal is to get him playing longer spurts maybe pushing his minutes into the mid 20's. Quentin Gooden started at PG and dished out 7 assists. He showed glimpses of his finishing ability around the rim plus his drive and dish passing talent. "Q" has mastered the tear drop rainbow floater shot. He's strong enough to get that shot off with defenders hanging on him.

Kaiser Gates started at Power Forward. He looked the part at a stronger 6-8 230. Gates cancelled out Morehead's best player Lamontray Harris inside then flashed the foot speed to chase him out to the perimeter. Kaiser scored a clean 14 points(4-4 from three-4-4 FTs) and added 5 rebounds. All 10 scholarship players played double digit minutes.

The three Freshmen all showed minimal jitters and fit smoothly into the rotation. PG Paul Scruggs led in minutes(24) scored 6 and posted 4 assists with no turnovers. Naji Marshall ran the floor-attacked the basket-got into passing lanes and played like a hybrid rover. Is he a "2" "3" or "4"? Who knows? He's disruptive and energetic and confident and productive(12 points-4-4 FG-4 rebounds-2 assists).

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS:

Shooting numbers were near record levels against an overmatched but well organized opponent(68& overall FGs-57% from three with 12 made threes). There was no shot hunting. Xavier shared the ball and made the extra pass consistently. Some of the lane to corner passes were like epic lasers. The PGs Gooden and Scruggs thrive on the drive and dish game (pass first)with their size and vision and determination. Spot up shooters like Bluiett and Macura and Gates and Harden and to en extend Marshall are going to get a lot of open looks. Coach Mack liked the defensive intensity for 40 minutes. His team kept working and didn't for the most part play the score and devolve into basket trading.

TEAM 96 has plenty of defensive upside. They can guard more physically out on the floor with longer players and more depth. The defense produced 11 steals and 10 blocked shots because of more aggressiveness. We saw no zone against Morehead. It wasn't needed. It may be in Coach Mack's back pocket for Wisconsin Thursday night in Madison if a change-up is needed though(8:30PM-EST-Thursday-Fox Sports 1) as part of the 8 game-5 day Gavitt Games Series(BIG EAST vs BIG TEN).

BLEMISHES FROM THE OPENER:

Free throw shooting was not good(61%). There were 28 FT attempts which is a great number. Turnovers were too high(15). Gooden and Scruggs playing together is still a work in progress. Who's the PG and who's the off guard? They'll get to that comfortable instinctive PG 1 and 1A relationship eventually. Kerem Kanter has to play harder to earn bigger minutes against better competition. Sean O'Mara picked up two quick fouls but played much better after half time. He's capable of strong consistent post play(witness his contributions on the NCAA stage last spring). XU needs production from Kanter and BIG Sean to make the three headed center monster work.

SCOUTING THE RIDER UNIVERSITY BRONCOS (Monday Night-8:30-Cintas Center):

Rider is a mid-level MAAC(Metro-Atlantic) team from New Jersey. The Broncos opened at home Friday and blasted Hampton(MEAC)(XU plays Hampton on 11-20 at Cintas) 90-75. Rider is a team in transition. Two 1000 point plus scorers have graduated. They only have one Senior on the roster(#12 Anthony Durham-13 points vs Hampton). Rider's top player is #23 Sophomore PG Stevie Jordan(11.7 points-5 rebounds and a MAAC leading 5.6 assists as a Frosh). He drives. He shoots threes(17 points-6 assists-Hampton).

Two new comers did well against the Hampton Pirates-DePaul transfer #13 Fredrick Scott(6-8 223)(15 points-14 rebounds Friday)(actually I do not remember him playing for DePaul at least against XU???) and RS Frosh sniper #2 Jordan Allen(21 points-5-12 from three-Hampton).

Rider looks like run and gun!! Entertaining with a little more size than Morehead but maybe not as disciplined. Again Xavier will be heavily favored. There's a lot to improve on before reality hits home Thursday evening in Madison against the Wisconsin Badgers!!!




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