The Xavier Musketeers put on a strong showing in their lone exhibition game of the '12-'14 pre-season at the Cintas Center on Saturday night, defeating division II Kentucky State by a score of 74-53.
With Brad Redford out with a slight injury, and Chris Cantino still awaiting clearance from the NCAA, Xavier was forced to play with just 7 scholarship players. Even in small numbers the Musketeers got balanced scoring six players scored at least 8 points on the night.
Freshman guard Semaj Christon, walk-on forward Erik Stenger, and leading returning scorer Jeff Robinson all led Xavier with 12 points a piece in the win. Next up was the 10 points of both Justin Martin and Travis Taylor, as well as the 8 points of Dee Davis.
Also getting in on the action was Isaiah Philmore with 5 points.
While the team played mostly in their new slow-down half-court deliberate passing style, the story of the night was the uptempo start that the Musketeers got out to, led entirely by Christon.
Christon scored or assisted on 12 of Xavier's first 14 points, including the first 6-0 mini spurt which caused Kentucky State to burn an early timeout.
For the game Christon tied Dee Davis with a team high 5 assists each.
After allowing Kentucky State to take a small lead, Stenger started a spurt of his own, propelling the Musketeers on an 8-0 run capped off by a Jeff Robinson dunk which put the Musketeers ahead 18-14 with 8 minutes to play in the half.
That run ballooned to 13-0 as Semaj Christon scored again moments later to give Xavier a 23-14 cushion.
The Thorobreds would not go away, however, as they drilled a few three pointers to keep the game close until the late moments of the first half.
That is where the Musketeers put their stamp on the game as Justin Martin scored twice in a 9-0 run to end the half with Xavier leading by a score of 35-23.
In the second half Xavier flexed their muscles inside, making the difference in their eventual 41-30 rebounding advantage, as the Musketeers pounded the ball inside at every chance that they got.
The two teams traded baskets early in the second half until Dee Davis ended a 7-0 KSU run and started a 6-0 Xavier run, which was capped by a Davis layup to five the Musketeers what was at the time their biggest lead at 45-32 with 13:11 remaining.
The lead continued to swell from their as Stenger, Robinson, and Taylor scored basket after basket inside, eventually leading to a 24 point deficit for Kentucky State in the final few minutes of the game.
Once coach Chris Mack cleared the bench, and after a buzzer beating desperation three from K-State, the Musketeers had their 21 point victory by the final score of 74-53.
The Musketeers finished at a very respectable 47% shooting from the field, but made just 1/16 three-point attempts and also struggled at the line where they shot just 63% on 33 attempts.
The area where Mack might be most pleased with the Musketeers performance was the defensive end of the floor, which led to Xavier absolutely dominating the hustle points.
Sparked by great defensive efforts by Stenger, Philmore and Davis, Xavier outscored Kentucky State 46-12 in the paint, 31-8 off of turnovers (where Xavier forced KSU into 24 giveaways).
Kentucky State was led by the 16 points of Patrick Dawson and 12 points of Cincinnati native Ulysses Thomas.
Xavier is next in action in their regular season opener on the 9th of November at the Cintas Center against visiting Farleigh-Dickinson.
Highlights from GoXavier.com: