Xavier coach Travis Steele lamented the fact that his team “didn’t show up” in the first 25 minutes of a five-point loss to Florida in the Charleston Classic finals on Sunday.
More contributors may be available when the No. 25 Musketeers (6-1) return to play host to Lipscomb on Saturday, Steele said, telling reporters that touted freshman guard KyKy Tandy and Daniel Ramsey have been cleared to practice and could be available.
Tandy’s addition could help address the Musketeers’ greatest offensive deficiency, outside shooting. Tandy, a 6-foot-2 guard from Hopkinsville, Ky., scored 3,363 points in his high school career, and Steele has called him the best shooter on the roster.
Xavier is shooting 27.7 percent from three-point range, 316th of the 350 NCAA Division I schools. Tandy would be expected to be used off the bench while mixing into a veteran group that includes ball-handling forward Naji Marshall and guards Paul Scruggs and Quentin Goodin.
“There is going be a learning curve,” Steele told reporters of Tandy. “It’s hard to take a month off. He has to get his rhythm back. He has to get in game shape. That’s not saying he can’t impact our team. I just want him to go in there, play hard, and see what happens.”
Xavier, which dropped from No. 18 to No. 25 after losing to Florida, trailed the Gators by 17 points in the second half before mounting a comeback to get within three before Scruggs’ 3-point attempt with 13 seconds remaining bounced off. Scruggs had a season-high 24 points.
Florida shot 54.2 percent from the field, the first team to make half its shots and only the second team to shoot better than 41.1 percent against Xavier this season.
“We gave up a lot of open shots to Florida, and that’s inexcusable,” Steele said. “That’s not who we are. I appreciate us playing hard, but that’s the baseline expectation. I want a team that shows up the first second of the game. We have to learn from this. I do think we are better from playing in the tournament.”
Marshall, a unanimous first-team pick in the Big East coaches’ preseason poll, had a season-low six points and took only one shot in the second half of the Florida game. He is averaging 14.6 points a game, just behind Scruggs (15.3) and ahead of big man Tyrique Jones (14.3)
“Naji needs to be aggressive,” Steele said. “We need to put him in position to score, and that’s on me.”
Lipscomb (3-4) will play its third straight road game after winning at Navy and Tennessee Tech, and it has had no trouble away from home. The Bisons of the Atlantic Sun Conference led NCAA Division I with 14 true road victories last season, and after meeting Xavier will face 2019 NCAA tournament teams Belmont, Vermont and Auburn.
“We want a challenging nonconference schedule to prepare us for our ASUN run,” first-year coach Lennie Acuff said. “Our schedule is difficult, especially with a young team.”
Freshman guard KJ Johnson leads the team in scoring at 14.0 points a game. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists against Tennessee Tech and made two 3-pointers against both Navy and Tennessee Tech.
Sophomore center Ahsan Asadullah is averaging a double-double, 13.2 points and 11.3 rebounds. Guard Michael Buckland, like Asadullah an all-ASUN preseason pick, has missed the last two games with a rib injury.
–Field Level Media