Xavier kept their season opening winning streak going at the Cintas Center on Friday night, moving on to 3-0 after a 79-56 win over visiting Morehead State.
The Musketeers played about thirty minutes of strong basketball at home, when they busted the game wide-open midway through the first half, and held on that margin for the rest of the evening.
While the starting unit, which had a different look as head coach Chris Mack elected to start a three-guard lineup, struggled some early due to mental errors, the game picked up about halfway through the opening period, when Mack went deep into the bench.
After that slow start, Xavier trailed 11-10 at the 11:51 mark in the half, before the Musketeers run began. Semaj Christon got off to a hot start for Xavier during the teams dry spell, scoring six quick points, but turnovers and missed free throws prevented the Musketeers from building a lead.
Moments later, Xavier began to gain control of the game, as senior forward Isaiah Philmore went on a scoring spree, giving Xavier an 18-15 lead at the 7:40 mark after three buckets inside.
The Musketeer lead was extended to 22-15 at the 7:40 mark by Jalen Reynolds, who gave Xavier a great boost on the interior in the first half with seven points in the first period. Reynolds gave the Musketeers their first double-figure lead moments later at 31-21, before a big play by Justin Martin put the game out of reach late in the first half.
After securing a steal, Martin pushed the ball on the breakaway, and converted a layup while being fouled. The officials called it an intentional foul, and Martin's free throws extended the lead to 38-23 (which would end up as the halftime score) with a little over thirty seconds remaining in the period.
The second half played out slowly, with the Musketeers slowly adding to the lead, and eventually extending the margin to over twenty at the 11:42 mark off of a Semaj Christon fast break layup from a turnover.
The Musketeers then used a zone defense to slow the game down, and worked in their entire rotation, as the team cruised to the finish line, consistently holding a lead at or near the twenty-point mark.
For the game, Semaj Christon led Xavier with a game-high 20 points, while Jalen Reynolds and Isaiah Philmore were also in double-figures, with 11 and 10 points respectively.
James Farr and Justin Martin each chipped in 8 points for the victors, while Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook each added 7 points of their own.
Morehead State was led by the 12 points of Chad Posthumus and the 11 points of Luka Pajkovic, but more importantly star guard Angelo Warner was held to just 8 points on 1-7 shooting.
Xavier shot over 50% on the night, finishing 28/52 from the field, and despite the slow start, had a nice night at the foul line at 21/30. The Musketeers only managed two made three-point shots, but some of that can be attributed to their ability to play in transition and score around the rim against Morehead State.
Defensively, Mack will be pretty happy with the 56 points the Musketeers gave up, particularly the fact that Warner only scored 8, as well as Morehead State's terrible shooting percentage of just 29% from the field and 22% from three-point range.
While Mack might not be thrilled with the fact that the game ended in a tie in the rebounding department at 34-34, the coach will like the assist number for Xavier at 20, while committing just 14 turnovers.
On the flip side, Xavier forced Morehead State into 17 turnovers, most of which led to Xavier baskets.
One potential negative to look at for Xavier, however, was the unnecessary fouling that plagued the Musketeers all game long, as they allowed Morehead State to have 38 attempts from the foul line. The new emphasis on officiating the game more tightly was obvious from the onset, as a total of 56 fouls were called in the forty-minute contest.
Xavier will try and keep their winning streak alive in their next game on Wednesday, when they host the Miami (OH) Redhawks in the Cintas Center.