Muskies Clear Exhibition Game Hurdle!! Beat Ferris State 80-56 at Cintas!!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 11/6/2016

Xavier's TEAM 95 made progress in their preseason 80-56 win over D-2 Ferris State. The second half flowed better than the first. The four newcomers-transfers Malcolm Bernard and Rashid Gaston and freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Gooden-got their feet wet under the bright lights and scrutiny of a plus 10,000 home crowd.Coach Chris Mack praised the packed student section deeming them regular season ready but urging them to be even more rowdy and creative for the Opener next Friday against Lehigh(11-11) 7PM(TV-Fox College).

Mack was in a decent mood cradling his favorite beverage Mountain Dew. Xavier has switched from Coke to Pepsi campus-wide. Dew is too high octane for Andy Mac,but I do like my Diet Pepsi.

FIRST HALF:

The Muskies won the first 20 minutes 35-23,but play was choppy-even ugly. XU was limited to 9 scholarship players without Myles Davis(suspended) and Kaiser Gates(injured). The Muskies have not practiced full court 5 on 5 that much because of short numbers. Grad assistants Allen Payne(Auburn) and Ricardo Johnson(Ohio U) have been logging practice minutes. Luckily,they're still in good condition!!

Mack wants more patience in the half court. XU attacked the basket too quickly at times leading to charging fouls and turnovers. First game jitters led to 6-18 free throw shooting. 18 trips to the line is a gooid number though and a vote for TEAM 95's aggressiveness and persistence.

Frosh PG Quentin Gooden played early and often. He will be a vital lead guard back-up immediately and he showed no hesitation in going strong to the basket.Fellow frosh Tyrique Jones crashed the boards hard and got to the FT line. He's a strong repeat jumper and will get minutes in the power spot rotation just behind Sean O'Mara and Gaston while Gates rehabs the knee.

The Muskie defense seemed solid. Ferris shot just 25%FG. X covered the three point line well and packline communication seemed decent. The baseline was denied. There was plenty of pressure placed on the FSU guards. Xavier used the 1-3-1 zone over the last five minutes with J.P.Macura out top as the disrupter and Ferris struggled to score.

Malcolm Bernard is a strong option in the 1-3-1 with his length and quickness. He and Edmond Sumner have already developed a vulcan mind link on the lob-back door dunk play.

Sumner plays above the rim as well as any Muskie I've seen in my 33 years around the program including Dexter "Skywalker" Bailey,Romain Sato,Derrick Brown and Dez Wells.Bernard is fitting in well as a sort of Swiss Army knife ala Remy Abel the past two seasons.

Malcolm can defend positions 1 through 4. He runs the floor on the fast break very hard and he is a lefty. His line against Ferris State speaks volumes(9 points-10 rebounds-4 assists-1 turnover and 4 for 5 shooting). Can he approach those numbers against D-1 opposition? He held his own in the scrimmage vs Georgia. Post scoring was a challenge in both halfs.O'Mara,Gaston and Jones have to score more than 8 points on 3 for 11 shooting FG and 2-10 FTS.

Sean O'Mara is no longer an intriguing luxury playing behind Farr and Reynolds. BIG SEAN has to produce. He has put in the work and has the talent. Consistent playing time will let Seam emerge as a force!!Kaiser Gates will help those numbers when he returns,but the post scoring is a work in progress.

SECOND HALF:

The offense smoothed out and XU scored 45 points. FTs were an acceptable 11-15. The perimeter three(Trevon Bluiett,Edmond Sumner and J.P. Macura) combined for 58 points. Is there a better starting PG,2G,SF 1-2-3 combination in NCAA Division 1? Bluiett is definetly sleeker and faster,but he still rebounds well(10 boards) and can defend a bigger power forward in certain line-ups.

Coach Mack was upset about FSU's 15 offensive rebounds. Effort is not lacking,but consistent box-out techniques maybe need work plus more gang rebounding without the blot out the sun board work supplied last season by James Farr and Jalen Reynolds. More rebounds from Sumner,Bernard,Bluiett and Gates should close the gap plus TEAM 95 should be faster and better in transition and potentially score more baskets in the mid-range game(pull-up jumpers,tear drops.stuff off the dribble).

Mack teams will always emphasize the inside-out game. 20 three point attempts is a comfortable number for Xavier. That could edge up considering TEAM 95's perimeter talent. One thing's for sure!! Edmond Sumner is a true triple threat scorer with the whole arsenal of shots(threes-pop-ups-tear drops-finger rolls-bank shots and powerful dunks) plus a smooth FT stroke and the attacking game to get to the line 8 to 10 times per game.

WALK-ON FUN:

Frosh guard Leighton Scrand banked in a long three pointer.He's a dead-eye shooter from Holy Cross HS in Northern Kentucky. His dad Ryan starred at LaSalle HS and NKU.He was Leighton's coach at Holy Cross. Senior Cullen Barr as cut at walk-on try-outs as a freshman and became a practice team player for the XU Women's team. He made it as a Men's walk-on this year. Alex Bergan is a Senior guard from Oak Hills HS who's learned basketball from Mke Price and wants to pursue a coaching career.

Lehigh is next!! The Mountain Hawks are favored to win the Patriot League and earn an NCAA bid. Four starters return from a team that fell 3 points short of the Big Dance last March including 6-11 250 pound Center Tom Kempton Jr. two time Patriot League Player of the Year and a terrific Junior PG. Lehigh's not your garden variety walk over season Opener!!




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