Sun, 24 Jan 2021

Xavier braces for fast-paced Eastern Kentucky

Field Level Media
30 Nov 2020, 11:40 GMT+10

When Xavier hosts Eastern Kentucky on Monday night, it will mark its fourth game in six days.

The matchup will be part of the Musketeers' 12 games in a 29-day stretch to open the season, although they won't leave the city of Cincinnati for the first seven games.

Xavier (3-0) is coming off three consecutive wins in its multi-team invitational, although its last two required a full 40-minute effort. After freshman point guard Dwon Odom hit a game-winner with 4.8 seconds Thursday in a 51-50 squeaker over Butler, the Musketeers needed a late 8-2 burst to edge Toledo 76-73 on Friday.

"We saw some good, saw some bad, and we obviously have to get a heck of a lot better," said Xavier coach Travis Steele. "I told our guys that we have to mature. The teams that are going to get better during the condensed part of the schedule are mature teams.

"We're excited to get out here against EKU. They're going to play really fast -- they're playing at the seventh-fastest pace in college basketball -- and they're really going to get after you. We're going to have to make good decisions at the end of the press."

A pair of sophomores, Zach Freemantle and sixth man KyKy Tandy, lead the Musketeers in scoring at 16.3 and 15.3 points per game, respectively. Tandy pumped in a game-high 24 against Toledo, while Paul Scruggs (13.0 points per game) accounted for six points in the final 2 1/2 minutes on Friday.

Eastern Kentucky (2-0) is coming off a pair of wins at a multi-team event in Raleigh, N.C., including a 60-50 decision Friday over Charleston Southern. The Colonels opened their season Wednesday by dumping North Florida, 80-67.

Tre King has been Eastern Kentucky's top scorer through two games, averaging 15.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. Pressure defense has been the difference for the Colonels, who have forced 46 turnovers, including 25 on Friday.

"This team has so much spurt-ability," said Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton in a postgame radio interview after Wednesday's victory. "These guys play hard and the press will wear you down."

The Colonels have yet to get hot from long range, an integral part of their game plan. Through two games, they are just 9 of 56 from beyond the arc.

This will be the 19th meeting between the teams. Xavier leads the series 13-5, including a 95-77 triumph two years ago.

--Field Level Media

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