Efficient Xavier set to take on Bradley

NCAA Basketball

Coaches have been known to say that a team improves the most from its first game to its second.

If that’s the case for Xavier, then Bradley is in a whole bunch of trouble Thursday when the teams meet to open the second day of the Xavier Invitational in Cincinnati, Ohio

The Musketeers overpowered Oakland in Wednesday’s season opener, taking a 53-12 halftime lead on their way to a 101-49 blowout. Zack Freemantle notched the first double-double of his career with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while KyKy Tandy scored 18 points and added a career-high seven assists.

Xavier coach Travis Steele said his team didn’t take the season opener for granted, noting that it found out last March how quickly an opportunity to play could disappear. The Musketeers were sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the remainder of the season.

“We were glad we were able to get out there and compete,” Steele said. “You just have to take it day-by-day. I told our guys you only get one chance to make a first impression, and I thought our guys did a good job. We had 34 assists and just 10 turnovers, so the ball really moved.”

Making the outcome even more impressive was that Xavier used just eight players. Three other players who might have saw action were quarantined because of contact tracing for COVID-19.

Bradley also won its season opener on Wednesday, albeit in far different fashion. The two-time Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champs got a driving layup from Terry Nolan with 0.8 seconds left to subdue Toledo, 61-59.

Nolan missed a similar shot earlier in the possession but got to a loose ball and tossed it off a Toledo player out of bounds with 13 seconds remaining. That earned the Braves the last shot, and coach Brian Wardle went right back to Nolan.

“Terry’s a very smart player who has a great feel for the game,” Bradley coach Brian Wardle said, according to the Peoria (Ill.) Journal-Star. “His confidence was high and he was feeling good.”

Elijah Childs scored 14 points and blocked four shots to pace the Braves, which overcame 40.7 percent shooting from the floor by holding the Rockets to 33.3 percent from the field.

Bradley was tabbed to finish third in the MVC this season behind Northern Iowa and Loyola-Chicago.

–Field Level Media

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