Xavier focuses on Hampton after beating Wisconsin

CINCINNATI -- The Xavier Musketeers learned a lot about themselves on Thursday night in Madison, Wis.

They learned they have the talent, depth and experience to overcome a stiff challenge on the road. And even with Trevon Bluiett not contributing on offense for a half, the Musketeers can do enough other things well to stay in the game against a quality team like Wisconsin.

While the 80-70 win over the Badgers likely is going to carry weight on the Musketeers' tournament resume for the remainder of the season, it is just one game, and there are more than three months left to play. More challenges await No. 15 Xavier, particularly in the Big East Conference.

"Really good win for our program," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "We don't take it lightly."

The Musketeers (3-0) expended a lot of emotion at Madison while avenging a devastating loss to the Badgers in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. But now they must refocus.

Xavier will take a great deal of confidence into a Monday night game against Hampton (1-3) at Cintas Center. Hampton and Xavier are meeting for the first time.

The Pirates have lost two consecutive games, including a 65-57 loss to George Washington on Saturday as part of the Las Vegas Invitational.

Hampton is led by sophomore guard Jermaine Marrow, who scored 25 points against George Washington and averages 22 points per game and shoots 38.5 percent from 3-point range.

"He's grown tremendously, not only as a player but as a leader on the court," Pirates coach Edward "Buck" Joyner said of Marrow before the season. "He's actually becoming a vocal leader on our team. If he can do that, it'll play dividends down the road."

Hampton has lost three straight away from home to begin the season, which doesn't bode well for the Pirates going into the game at Cintas Center, where the Musketeers have been dominant in recent years.

Xavier is 230-35 (.868) at Cintas, including 2-0 this season. The Musketeers have won 32 straight nonconference home games, with their last loss a 56-55 setback to Wofford on Dec. 22, 2012. Xavier averages 10,048 fans per game since Cintas opened in 2000.

Bluiett, not surprisingly, continues to fuel the Musketeers' offense. He is averaging 25.3 points and is shooting 54.2 percent from 3-point range. The national player of the year candidate also is 17 of 17 from the free-throw line and tied for the team rebounding lead.

He didn't have a field goal in the first half at Wisconsin, but Mack wasn't concerned.

"I didn't have any doubt that he'd have an impact," the coach said.

J.P. Macura, who scored 20 points and had eight rebounds in the win at Wisconsin while drawing the ire of the Badgers' students section, is averaging 17.3 points and five rebounds while ranking second on the team at 4.7 assists per game.

Xavier has four players averaging in double figures but is hoping to have more depth as the season progresses. Freshmen Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs are becoming a bigger part of the offense. Mack has challenged big men Sean O'Mara and Kerem Kanter to play more forcefully and assert themselves on both ends of the court.

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