CINCINNATI (AP) — Three turnovers, matching the fewest in Xavier history. A big lead that held up. A balanced offense that scored every which way.
By every measure, the Musketeers had a game that suggested they’re starting to get their act together.
Tyrique Jones scored 13 points as part of his second double-double of the season, and Naji Marshall added 17 as Xavier pulled away to an 82-55 victory over Miami of Ohio on Wednesday night.
The Musketeers (4-3) won their fourth in a row over Miami (3-4), a long-time rival located 35 miles away. The schools have played 102 times, with Xavier leading 55-47.
Xavier played its first game since going 1-2 at the Maui Invitational, including an 88-79 overtime loss to Auburn. With a new coaching staff and roster, the Musketeers knew they’d need some time to become cohesive.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of new coaches, new players,” Marshall said. “We just needed some time. We’re good now.”
First-year coach Travis Steele challenged the Musketeers to get much better on defense after their three games in Maui.
“I thought our guys stood up to the challenge,” Steele said. “Our execution of the defensive system was much improved. I think we matured. We put together 40 minutes for the first time all year.”
Jones steadied the Musketeers inside, adding 13 rebounds. Xavier shot 54 percent from the field and had only three turnovers.
“In practice, we take pride in (avoiding) turnovers,” point guard Quentin Goodin said. “If we turn it over three times, we’ve got to sprint. I feel that helps us out in the game.”
Bam Bowman had 15 points for Miami — 14 of them in the first half — and picked up his fourth foul with 12:29 to go. The RedHawks shot only 33 percent from the field.
“They did a good job bottling the guys up and taking away their space,” Miami coach Jack Owens said.
Six Xavier players scored during a 14-3 run that gave the Musketeers a double-digit lead midway through the first half. Xavier led by as many as 17 in the half, shooting 55 percent from the field, and opened the second half with a 10-1 run.
Miami: The RedHawks were looking for another strong game from Bowman, a junior forward who scored 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting in a win over Army. He had 10 of their first 12 points, but top scorers Nike Sibande (18.5 points per game) and Dalonte Brown (17.5) combined for only six points as Xavier built its double-digit lead. Sibande and Brown finished a combined 6 for 22 from the field.
“We started the game the way we needed to, getting the ball inside,” Owens said. “Then we settled for some jump shots.”
Xavier: The Musketeers are trying to break a season-long habit of letting big leads slip away. They blew a 19-point lead in a 79-74 loss to San Diego State. Against the RedHawks, they got up by 17 in the first half and pushed it to 24 early in the second.
“Our group handled a lead for the first time all year, which was good to see,” Steele said.
OH THOSE TURNOVERS
Xavier’s three turnovers matched the school record for fewest in a game. They also had three against Dayton on March 14, 2004 and against UMass on March 2, 2002. By contrast, Xavier had 28 points off Miami’s 14 turnovers.
Xavier has won nine straight and 17 of 18 against Mid-American Conference teams. The lone loss during that span was against the RedHawks, 75-64, on Dec. 1, 2010 at Millett Hall.
Xavier wanted to start a new home-court winning streak after a 77-68 loss to Wisconsin on Nov. 13. The Musketeers had won 41 straight non-conference games at the Cintas Center.
Miami hosts Wilberforce on Saturday.
Xavier hosts Oakland on Saturday, the second of three straight home games.
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