CINCINNATI (AP) — After giving up 102 points in its first loss of the season, No. 21 Xavier spent all of its practice time working on defense. It showed the next time out.
J.P. Macura scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half as Xavier surged ahead to stay, and the Musketeers dug in and sent No. 16 Baylor to its first loss of the season, 76-63 on Tuesday night.
Xavier (6-1) recovered from a loss to Arizona State in a Las Vegas tournament by controlling the boards and putting together decisive runs in each half. The Musketeers never trailed after an opening 21-8 spurt.
“All we did in practice when we got back was defense,” point guard Quentin Goodin said. “I thought we played with a lot of pride on defense and it showed.
“We knew what we had to do to prepare for this game. Toughness was a huge part of this game.”
Kaiser Gates also had 19 points for Xavier, including a 3-pointer that blunted the Bears’ final comeback attempt. The Musketeers now have a road win at Wisconsin and a home win over Baylor, both by double digits.
“We played really tough, played together, played great defense,” Gates said. “It could have been better at times, but I think we take away a lot of good things from this game.”
Baylor (5-1) was riding momentum from the championship of Hall of Fame Classic, which featured wins over Wisconsin and Creighton. The Bears beat Wisconsin despite going the final 8 minutes without a field goal, and then rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to beat Creighton .
No comeback this time after the Bears fell behind by 14 in the second half.
“The first thing you don’t want to do in a road game early is to let them get ahead, let the crowd get into it, and that’s what we did,” coach Scott Drew said.
Terry Maston led the Bears with 15 points, all in the first half. Manu Lecomte went 4 of 13 from the field for 11 points after coming in with a 19-point average.
“They have a lot of good shooters and we did a bad job at finding them in transition,” Lecomte said. “We tried to come back but it was just a bad night for us.”
Xavier has won 34 straight nonconference home games, with the last loss 56-55 to Wofford on Dec. 22, 2012. The Musketeers are 232-35 all-time at the Cintas Center.
Baylor: Despite their loss on Tuesday, the Bears have played well overall against ranked teams in the last two years. They went 6-3 against ranked opponents last season, including a school-record four wins over Top 10 teams. One of them was a 76-61 victory over No. 7 Xavier last Dec. 3.
Xavier: The Musketeers’ defense was their main concern, and it was tough at the outset, holding the Bears to 1-of-8 shooting while they took the lead for good. They also made important stops that prevented Baylor from getting closer than five points down the stretch. Xavier controlled the boards 38-28.
Trevon Bluiett, who is Xavier’s top scorer at 21.3 points per game, moved stiffly on the court and had a treatment pack on his back when he was on the bench. He was 0 for 4 from beyond the arc and finished with 10 points. Coach Chris Mack said he’s had a stiff back since the return flight from Las Vegas.
“It affected him little in the shoot-around,” Mack said. “He’s a tough kid. He gutted through it. He had some great looks in first half and didn’t knock them down.”
Goodin had nine assists, no turnovers and six points in 26 minutes. He was limited in the first half after picking up two fouls early.
“I take pride in taking care of the ball,” Goodin said. “I know my role on this team is to get my teammates involved, to get them ball in positions to score.”
LET ‘EM PLAY
The officials allowed a lot of contact in the first half. Neither team shot a free throw until Xavier’s Karem Kanter went to the line with 2:05 left in the half, which had a combined 14 fouls and seven free throws. In the second half, there were 23 fouls and 28 free throws combined.
Baylor hosts No. 8 Wichita State on Saturday, giving the Bears back-to-back games this week against ranked teams.
Xavier hosts No. 11 Cincinnati, which is 7-0 going into their annual crosstown rivalry game. Xavier has won seven of the last 10 in the series. The Musketeers have won all seven of the rivalry games played at the Cintas Center.
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