No. 25 Xavier, Iowa State meet in battle of unbeatens

NCAA Basketball

Undefeated No. 25 Xavier and Iowa State will be on a collision course on Wednesday when they meet in the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York.

Iowa State (4-0) is coming off a 82-47 trouncing of Grambling State on Sunday in which they connected on 13 of 25 attempts from 3-point range that helped ignite the Cyclones to their largest margin of victory this season.

Aljaz Kunc was 5-for-5 from beyond the arc, and he connected on all seven of his field-goal attempts for a career-high 21 points.

Kunc was one of five Cyclones in double figures. Iowa State collected a season-high 50 points from its bench, sparked by Tre Jackson’s 12 points and Caleb Grill’s 10. The Cyclones handed out 21 assists and outrebounded Grambling State, 46-22.

Izaiah Brockington is averaging a team-best 13.5 points per contest. Tyrese Hunter has posted 12.8 points, and Gabe Kalscheur has netted 11.0 per game.

“We challenged our guys to play a game for 40 minutes with the habits that we build every day,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We were able to do that even with some guys in foul trouble that usually play a different number of minutes.”

“What I like about our group is that you’ve seen guys step up. We have a lot of guys that bring something to the table. Our bench outscored our starters tonight.”

Xavier (4-0) also will enter the game off an impressive showing, as the Musketeers dismantled Norfolk State 88-48 on Sunday.

The Musketeers also found success from beyond the arc, as they drained 14 of 31 attempts. Adam Kunkel made 8 of 10 shots from 3-point range to lead the way with a career-high 26 points, and Nate Johnson went 4-for-8 from long range to add 20. Kunkel was the first Musketeer to have eight 3-pointers since Trevor Bluiett in 2018.

Paul Scruggs is the Musketeers’ leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, followed by Colby Jones (13.0), Kunkel (11.3) and Johnson (10.0).

Xavier head coach Travis Steele has watched his team have success moving the ball.

“The good shooting teams are good passing teams,” Steele said. “When the ball moves, and you look at all of our passes today, most of them were on time and on target.

“There weren’t a lot of forced plays and I felt like there were a little more against Niagara, against Kent (State) and against Ohio State. And if we drive, to have the idea like I’m gonna do what the game tells me to do. If a guy helps then I’m gonna kick it out, I’m gonna pass it on time and on target.

“Don’t pass the ball up high, down low by my shoes, put it right in my pocket. It’s amazing how those percentages really, really skyrocket.”

–Field Level Media

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