GAME NOTES: The Xavier Musketeers begin a four-game homestand on Thursday night when they host the Vanderbilt Commodores in non-conference action at the Cintas Center.
Since winning its opener over Nicholls (80-65), Vanderbilt has lost four of its last five games, most recently falling in a home bout with Villanova last Saturday, 62-52. The Commodores have played just one true road game on the season, losing to Oregon on Nov. 16, 74-48.
Xavier's season has started off strong, with its only loss coming to Pacific in the DirecTV Classic on Nov. 22 (70-67). Since that defeat, the Musketeers have strung together three impressive victories in a row, beating Drexel (69-65) and Drake (63-57) in the consolation rounds of the Classic before conquering their first road game of the season on Saturday at Purdue, 63-57.
Xavier has won all five meetings against Vanderbilt all-time, including an 82-70 overtime victory on the road last year.
The Commodores have been inconsistent with their shooting through six games, as they make less than 40 percent of their field goal attempts for just 58.0 ppg. It was more of the same in the loss to Villanova as they shot just 37 percent from the floor. Rod Odom scored 14 points in the setback, while Kevin tallied 12 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists. Kedren Johnson also had 12 points on 4-of-9 from three-point range. Johnson has really stepped up his play in his sophomore season, as he is shooting 47.4 percent from the floor, including 38.5 percent from 3-point range, for a team-high 16.7 ppg. He also grabs 4.7 rpg and has recorded team-best totals in assists (2.8 pg) and steals (1.7 pg). Kyle Fuller adds 11.3 ppg, while Bright (6.8 ppg) hauls in 7.2 rpg, although the team has lost the battle on the glass thus far, sporting a rebounding margin of minus-1.5.
While Vanderbilt has struggled to put points on the board, Xavier has been one of the hottest teams in the country to start the season, ranking fourth in the nation in field goal percentage (.520) en route to 73.3 ppg. It was an off night for the Musketeers' shooting attack on Saturday as it made less than 44 percent of its field goal attempts, but they were able to hold on to a six- point win by forcing Purdue into an 0-of-17 day from 3-point range. Freshman Semaj Christon scored a career-high 25 points on 8-of-12 from the field and 8- of-8 from the foul line. The first-year standout is the team's leading scorer on the young season (16.0 ppg). He's also been incredibly efficient with his shots for a guard (.540) and he hands out a team-high 6.2 apg. Dee Davis (13.0 ppg, 4.0 apg) and Justin Martin (12.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) are deadly from beyond the arc, combining to make 28-of-56 from three-point range, and Jeff Robinson rounds out the balanced scoring attack with 10.0 ppg.
Vanderbilt lost several valuable pieces in the offseason, and it doesn't seem to be equipped enough to make noise in the SEC this year. Winning road games will be difficult for the Commodores all season long, especially against well- balanced and disciplined teams like Xavier.
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