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Seventh-ranked Xavier has plenty of weapons on the offensive end and the Musketeers are showing they can also be a good defensive team as they prepare to host North Dakota State on Tuesday. Xavier held an opponent to 12 points in a half for the first time since the shot clock came into play in 1985-86 when it routed Northern Iowa 64-42 on Saturday, and is allowing 39.8 percent shooting from the field overall.
“Good teams lock in on the challenge in the moment,” Musketeers coach Chris Mack told reporters after Saturday’s triumph. “We defended at a really high level, as good as I can remember.” Xavier looks to extend its regular season winning streak against non-conference opponents to 21 before diving into a difficult stretch which includes consecutive games against Baylor, Colorado, Utah and Wake Forest. Junior J.P. Macura has led the Musketeers in scoring four of six games, pacing one of the nation’s top backcourt trios that includes junior Trevon Bluiett and sophomore Edmond Sumner. Xavier will have to be alert against North Dakota State, which is shooting 48.3 percent of the field while winning five of its first seven contests.
TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
ABOUT NORTH DAKOTA STATE (5-2): The Bison are coming off their worst shooting performance of the season as they made just 36.7 percent from the field in a 64-50 loss against Missouri State on Sunday. Junior guard Paul Miller leads the way at 14.4 points per game and senior forward Dexter Werner averages 8.1 points with team highs of five rebounds and 2.1 steals. Junior guard A.J. Jacobson has drained 14-of-18 attempts from 3-point range and is scoring 10.8 points per game while sophomore guard Khy Kabellis (10.6) scored a season-high 19 last time out.
ABOUT XAVIER (6-0): Macura (17.7), Bluiett (16.8) and Sumner (16.2) combine for more than 50 points a game, and there is plenty of room for improvement shooting from behind the arc where they’ve made 26 of 90 attempts. Sumner is shooting 50 percent from the field overall, the 6-6 Bluiett is pulling in a team-high 6.3 rebounds per game and Macura averages a team-best 2.2 steals with 13 makes from 3-point range. Kaiser Gates, a 6-8 sophomore forward, made his season debut Saturday after knee surgery and missed his only shot while grabbing two rebounds in 11 minutes.
1. Xavier freshman F Tyrique Jones matched his season high with six points and grabbed six boards in 11 minutes Saturday.
2. North Dakota State has limited teams to 37.9 percent shooting and forced 14.6 turnovers per contest.
3. The Musketeers are 219-31 all time in their home arena - the Cintas Center, where they have beaten 26 straight non-conference opponents.
PREDICTION: Xavier 80, North Dakota State 62