Muskies Overcome Slow Start to Beat Pirates of Hampton
By Brandon Eckman, 11/20/2017

The Xavier Musketeers Menís Basketball team won their 33rd straight non-conference home game on Monday night at Cintas Center, posting a 96-60 win over the Pirates of Hampton University. Coming off a 10-point win over Wisconsin last week, the Muskies looked to use big-win momentum as they looked for a fourth straight win to open the season and prepare for grueling Big East play down the stretch of the season. The Musketeers overcame early adversity and regrouped at halftime on their way to a quiet but convincing win in the debut of new alternate gray uniforms.

Hampton (1-4) gave the Musketeers problems in the opening minutes of the first half, leading 10-6 after 4 minutes of play. Xavier once again looked to establish an inside presence early by feeding the ball to Senior forward Tyrique Jones, who was fouled on the opening possession of the game, though he failed to connect on both of his free-throws. Xavier looked to push the ball early and attack the hoop to get easy fast-break layups in addition to feeding the post. Xavier scored 19 fast break points in the contest and led the way in rebounding with 46 total, allowing the team to outlet fast and score easy points.

The Hampton defense was a force to be reckoned with early, as the Pirates opened the game in a 2-3 matchup zone and remained in it for the majority of the game. The Muskies used their size and quick guards to their advantage, moving the ball well around the zone while allowing effective passing to open up shot opportunities. While the Hampton defense started out strong, their lack of discipline and size proved to be disadvantageous.

Back to back three-point shots by Big East Player of the Week Trevon Bluiett and Junior forward Kaiser Gates gave Xavier their first lead of the game with 14 minutes to play in the first half. The Muskies never looked back as they went on to extend their lead to 11 points following solid efforts by Freshmen Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs off the bench. The Xavier bench accounted for 46 of the teamís total points, showing both consistency and depth; a depth that is rarely found in collegiate basketball.

Xavier opened up the second half with continued ball movement and fast-pace play. Hampton found themselves in early foul trouble, allowing Xavier to attack the zone and finish tough shots despite contact. Hard defensive pressure, forcing of turnovers, and 10 offensive rebounds allowed the Musketeers to slowly pull away from the Pirates.

It was certainly a good night for Musketeer big-men. Forwards Sean OíMara and Kerem Kanter both had outstanding games, establishing a strong inside presence with scoring, rebounding, and aggressive defensive play. OíMara finished with 11 points while Kanter added 15 for the Muskies. Marshall added 12 points and 7 rebounds while Tyrique Jones rounded off dominant inside play with 9 points and 4 rebounds. Team 96 scored 50 points in the paint and blocked 5 shots in their dominate performance.

The Musketeers will be back in action this Thursday, November 23rd against George Washington in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tipoff is set for 5:00pm.

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