Xavier aims to regain form vs. UConn

·3 min read

In the limited amount of time Xavier has taken the floor this season, its offense has mostly been effective.

When the Musketeers host UConn on Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati, they are returning from a two-week pause due to COVID-19 protocols and are hoping their offense will not display any rust.

Xavier (11-2, 4-2 Big East) is playing only its second game since a 74-73 win over Providence on Jan. 10. The Musketeers saw five games postponed before returning with a 68-55 win at Butler on Jan. 30.

Xavier's third straight win was followed by two more postponed games. The Musketeers were not able to practice again until Thursday, though at least one player was unavailable due to COVID-19 protocol.

"Feels like we're starting a whole new season here, yet again," Xavier coach Travis Steele said.

The Musketeers rank fourth in the league in scoring (77.9 points), second in field goal percentage (47.8 percent) and second in 3-point shooting (36.4 percent). They also enter leading the league in field-goal percentage defense (39.6 percent) and are in fourth in scoring defense (68.5 points).

In the last game, Xavier excelled in all of those areas by shooting 51.0 percent and holding Butler to shoot 34.3 percent from the floor. Paul Scruggs scored 24 points to help Xavier overcome a quiet game from leading scorer Zach Freemantle, who was held to six points on 3-of-10 shooting.

UConn (8-5, 5-5) enters as the league's top defensive team by allowing 64.8 points but is struggling of late to cope with the absence of leading scorer James Bouknight. Bouknight has missed seven straight games due to elbow surgery, and the Huskies are 3-4 since his last appearance Jan. 5 at Marquette.

The Huskies are also 1-4 in their past five games, a slump that continued with a 70-59 loss at Providence on Wednesday when they were outplayed in the second half. During the last five games, Connecticut is allowing 69.8 points and allowing 45.0 percent from the floor.

"We better get a lot tougher and we better get back to playing much better defense because with what we can do offensively, our margin of error to win any game in this league is very, very narrow," UConn coach Danny Hurley said. "If we're not tough and defensive minded with all of our offensive deficiencies, it's going to be tough sledding."

Without Bouknight, Tyrese Martin (11.8 points) is UConn's leading scorer. He scored 13 points on Wednesday and is averaging 14.4 points in the seven games that Bouknight has missed.

"It's on all of us to step up in (Bouknight's) absence," Huskies' guard R.J. Cole said. "So, by the time he comes back, rather than start over, we can insert him back in and keep moving forward."

--Field Level Media