No. 15 Xavier romps past Rider
CINCINNATI — Xavier head coach Chris Mack has challenged his big men to not play timid. Mack hasn’t had that issue with sophomore Tyrique Jones, who in the first three minutes of Monday’s win over Rider had two dunks and one lecture from an official.
Trevon Bluiett had the swagger with 26 points and nine rebounds, but Jones brought the energy with 19 points and eight boards to lift No. 15 Xavier to a 101-75 victory over the Broncs at Cintas Center.
Jones also had two assists, a steal and three blocks.
“I loved the motor he played with tonight,” said Mack. “He’s becoming more confident. He wants to be the baddest guy on the glass.”
Xavier, who has a tough road game on Thursday at Wisconsin as part of the Gavitt Games, needs more efforts like Jones’ against the physical Badgers. Feisty Rider beat Xavier 19-9 on the offensive boards on Monday.
“Our rebounding isn’t where it needs to be,” said Mack. “We had guys who had zero rebounds in 25 minutes. That means I beat them on the boards.”
Bluiett, who scored 25 points in Friday’s season opener against Morehead State, was limited by a shoulder issue throughout the preseason. But the national player of the year candidate has made 17 of 26 shots and has 51 points in two games.
J.P. Macura scored 14 points, Paul Scruggs had 13 and Kaiser Gates added 12 for Xavier (2-0), which scored more than 100 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2009.
Much like their season-opening 101-49 win over Morehead, the Musketeers did well penetrating and kicking for open 3-pointers. The shots weren’t falling early against Rider for Xavier, which finished 10 of 31 from distance.
“That’s been our emphasis,” said Gates. “It’s all about getting the best shot possible.”
Stevie Jordan and Jordan Allen each scored 14 points for Rider (1-1).
“We came out a little jittery,” said Broncs coach Kevin Baggett. “There are no moral victories but I like the way we competed.”
Jones had two dunks in the first three minutes and was told by an official to stop the chatter only seconds into the game. The 6-foot-9 sophomore scored nine first-half points on 4-of-4 shooting. He also had four rebounds before halftime.
Xavier was sloppy at times in the half with eight turnovers.
Rider cut a 19-point lead to 10 on Allen’s 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer, which made the score 44-34.
The Broncs cut the deficit to five points at 44-39 early in the second half, resulting in some nervous moments for the crowd.
“We got within five, then started rushing shots,” said Baggett.
Xavier responded with a 22-4 run in five-plus minutes to put the game away.
Now, it’s on to Wisconsin where a few Musketeers will relive a painful memory: Bronson Koenig’s buzzer-beater which lifted the Badgers past No. 2 seed Xavier in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Koenig is gone, but Wisconsin has a star in junior forward Ethan Happ.
“Both teams will be far from a finished product, but it’s going to be a great environment,” Mack said. “They have a younger team, but they’re going to play Wisconsin basketball. Ethan Happ is one of the best players in the country. It’s going to be a good test on Thursday.”
NOTES: Xavier has won 32 straight non-conference home games. Its last loss was 56-55 to Wofford on Dec. 22, 2012. ... Xavier G Trevon Bluiett was named to the Big East Conference honor roll after scoring 25 points in a season-opening 101-49 win over Morehead State. ... Rider G Jordan Allen’s 21 points on Friday are the most for a Broncs freshman in his debut in at least the past 22 years. ... Monday’s game was the first meeting between the schools.