Musketeers defend home court in win over Rider
The Xavier Musketeer Menís Basketball team followed up its first 100 point effort since the 2012-13 season on Friday night with yet another one on Monday, as they were led by Senior guard Trevon Bluiett to a 101-75 victory over the Rider University Broncs. The Muskies left a lasting first impression on the visiting Broncs, defeating them at Cintas Center in the first meeting between the two schools. The 26 point victory gave Xavier their 32nd straight non-conference home win, while sending the Broncs of the Metro Atlantic Conference home with a record of 1-1.
Coming into the contest, senior guards J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett had scored a combined 2,682 points in their careers, which is the third most among active duos in the nation. 35 more points can be added to this total, as Bluiett led all players in scoring with 26 points, while Macura scored 14 points following a slow start. Sophomore forward Tyrique Jones was the second leading scorer for the Muskies putting up 19 points in 25 minutes as he went 7 for 8 on field goal attempts and recorded 8 rebounds in the winning effort.
Bluiett started off hot and never looked back, beginning with a deep three-point shot just minutes into the contest. Bluiett shot a field goal percentage of 57.1% and was 5 for 11 from beyond the three-point arc (45.5%). He also added 9 rebounds, 6 assists and a block in the convincing win. Macura had a slow start, however, he became more active in the second half by driving through the Rider zone defense, drawing contact and finishing tough shots under the rim. The preseason ALL-BIG East Honorable Mention shot 9 for 10 from the free-throw line and grabbed 4 rebounds.
The Musketeers opened the game with seemingly identical finishes by forward Tyrique Jones, as the squad appeared determined to establish a strong post presence early in the contest. Jones was fed the ball, took a drop step and dunked the ball with authority consecutive times within the first three minutes of play. This game plan was effective, as the Musketeers scored 40 of their points in the paint. Xavier did not shoot nearly as well from three-point land as was showcased during Fridayís win over Morehead State, going 10 for 31 from deep (32.3%).
The first half of the game was slow as both teams were called for questionable fouls, sending them both into the bonus early in the period. The Rider offense pushed the ball fast and attempted to catch the Xavier defense off-guard numerous times, however they only scored 8 fast-break points in the contest. Dribble-Drive offense proved to be successful for the Muskies in the first half, as it gave them the opportunity to draw attention from the physical Rider defense and open up shots for guards on the perimeter. Xavier led by as many as 19 points in the first half, but the deficit was cut to 10 by the end of the half when Riderís Jordan Allen drained a deep three-point shot at the halftime buzzer.
The 3-2 trap zone presented by the Rider defense gave Xavier some trouble as the Broncs inched back toward the end of the half, however the Muskies maintained their composure and quietly pulled away in the second half. Rider cut the Xavier lead to 5 early in the second half following a Musketeer struggle to grab defensive rebounds and a tough shot by Broncís guard Jordan Allen. Allen and guard Stevie Jordan both scored 14 points in the tough loss, leading their team in scoring. Xavier came thundering back after two impressive shots under the rim by Macura and consecutive three-pointers from Bluiett with 14 minutes left in the game. The Muskies quietly and consistently pulled away, playing solid defense throughout the contest and overcoming the seemingly frustrating foul calls by the referees.
Freshman guard Paul Scruggs added 13 points for the Musketeers, scoring 7 of them in the final 5 minutes of the game. Junior forward Kaiser Gates also had 12 points and 2 rebounds adding consistency from the starting five. Given the numerous foul calls, Xavier shot a solid free-throw percentage (82.9%), something that can still be improved upon and will complement their strengths during crucial Big East Conference play.
The Musketeers are back in action Thursday as they take on the Wisconsin Badgers at 8:30p.m. in Madison, Wisconsin.