One thing Coach Mack has stressed this year is that he is not worried about the offense. The offense will come, it’s the defense the team needs to be focusing on.
Yesterday, Xavier was wretched on offense, shooting 2-22 from three and committing some untimely turnovers. The talent differential is what won Xavier the game as they survived and advanced to today’s game against Clemson.
Coming into the match-up, a lot of people were concerned that after yesterday’s performance, Clemson would surge to a victory on Friday and upset the 11th ranked Xavier team that has looked a little shaky to begin the year. I was not as skeptical; the offense is not going to be that putrid every outing. As long as the defense did not drop off, the offense would balance out. Like a lot of people were saying, “water always finds its level.”
JP Macura is just that guy. He lives for the big moment, and he carried the Musketeers through the first half this afternoon. He had a career high 23 points before the half was even over and finished with 28 in the game…
Foul trouble was once again an issue. RaShid Gaston fouled out, and Tyrique Jones, Sean O’Mara, and Malcolm Bernard all had four. This is beginning to become a slight concern, but with rule changes that were instituted last year, both the refs and the players are still adjusting to new calls. As the season progresses, keeping fouls to a minimum will be *cues DJ Khaled* a major key.
Defensively, Xavier tried a little bit of the 1-3-1, and it worked on the first defensive possession when JP produced a steal. After that, not so much, and they went back to man. I like seeing all of these different sets tested out early in the year so they know what works come conference season.
Overall, Trevon Bluiett got back on track with 21 points, Bernard had timely baskets and played stout defense, and O’Mara scored 10 points on 4-4 shooting. This was a high-quality win for Xavier against a Clemson team that has significantly improved over recent years. It got a little tense as Xavier struggled to pull away, but the final ended up being 83-77.
Also, here’s a fun fact for you:
The Musketeers have now slain two Tigers in two days, can’t imagine PETA is too thrilled with that.
What’s Next – CHAMPIONSHIP TIME!
They’ll play for their second consecutive early-season tournament championship on Sunday against the winner of Northern Iowa and Oklahoma. The game will be at 7:30 on ESPN2.