MUSKIES PROGRESS PAST EXHIBITION GAME!!!
Andy Mac Williams,
TEAM 97 is a work in progress so Thursday night's 98-69 victory over D-2 Kentucky Wesleyan was far from a Rembrandt, but the players had fun and enhanced their bonding and the announced crowd of just over 10,000 witnessed an entertaining fast paced dunk fest. Starting point guard Quentin Goodin did not play because of a shoulder injury. He will practice over the weekend and could be available for next Tuesday's Opener against IUPUI (Horizon League). That's an 8:30PM EST Tip at Cintas (TV-FS2). Don't be shocked though if "Q" is held out until Evansville next Saturday afternoon or even Wisconsin a week from Tuesday(11-13). 6-11 grad transfer Zach Hankins also was not dressed. He tweaked a knee last weekend and should return to full practice Saturday and be ready for IUPUI Tuesday evening.
Travis Steele started Paul Scruggs at PG, along with Columbia grad transfer Kyle Castlin at 2 guard. Sophomore Naji Marshall opened at the "3". San Jose St, grad transfer Ryan Welage started at "4" with junior Tyrique Jones as the lone BIG.
KY W shot it well early and stayed within hailing distance until Naji Marshall embarked on a dominating person 9 point run of over 2 minutes comprised of two thunder dunks an acrobatic reverse lay-up and a corner three pointer. X led 52-35 at the half.
Scruggs sucked up all the PG time with Goodin unavailable. He ran the offense smoothly-drained a couple 3s and rebounded like a small forward. Tyrique crushed it inside against smallish KYW as he had earlier in the secret scrimmage against Ohio State.
Xavier started the second half slowly trading points with KYW for 9 frustrating minutes. KYW shot the rock well living on jumpers. St Henry (Northern Kentucky) HS grad and Mt St Joe's transfer Adam Goetz sniped away(23 points on 10-13 FG). Even elite defender Marshall had trouble with Goetz. X rallied and blitzed KYW late to win in a rout 98-69.
Scruggs was very good (20 points-7 rebounds-4 assists-2 steals). When paired with Goodin, they make for a long nimble attacking guard pair-both will PG skills-both with much improved three point shooting strokes.
Marshall is an open court beast with a high octane motor who is ready to assume the role of top scoring option. Naji stuffed the stat sheet(22 points-7 rebounds-3 assists-3 steals) He can dig in and defend anybody.
Tyrique is a load on the low block who enjoys dealing out body blows and clearing out space. A healthy Hankins can play with Jones and/or give him a rest. Foul trouble might limit his time, but at a slimmed down 235 pounds Jones now has the stamina to play 25 to 30 minutes/game(Ty's numbers 22 points-7 rebounds)
Ryan Welage struggled with his shot early, but finished with 4 made threes-17 points-4 boards-5 assists and no turnovers. He knows how to play and space the floor. He is not a gunner. His long range shooting stroke is Brad Redford-esque.
Both Frosh Dontarius James and Keonte Kennedy looked nervous and unsure at times. Both show promise though. Kennedy can run-soar and move his feet. James is strong as a bull with a nose for the ball and a sweet three point stroke.
Castlin scored 8-all on lay-ups. He's a Malcolm Bernard play-a-like and that's a developing good thing. XU took good care of the ball and forced 18 turnovers with 14 steals. T
HE NOT SO GOOD:
The Muskies were outrebounded 33-32 by a rebuilding D-2 team. Travis Steele may permanently affix the plastic rebounding bubble the next couple practices for constant box-out drills. The defense was spotty. Too many open jumpers allowed! Sketchy close-outs on shooters! Inconsistent high hands! The effort was there, but not consistent execution.
Bench rotation is still up in the air. 7 spots are set when Goodin and Hankins are available. Steele wants to play at least 8 guys. The PT battle rages between James-Kennedy and Elias Harden.
IUPUI arrives Tuesday at 8:30PM. Xavier has not lost a home opener since the Twin Towers NCAA Sweet 16 Team (1989-90). The Jaguars from Indianapolis enter their second season in the Horizon League (NKU, Wright State etc). They are a preseason #6 pick in the league with a 286 KenPom opening rank.