Bluiett scores 26, No. 13 Xavier beats Kent State 96-70
By JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — Coming off wins over two other highly ranked teams, Xavier had a chance to catch its breath, grind one out, and start getting ready for another payback game.
Trevon Bluiett scored 26 points — the seventh time he’s had 20 this season — and No. 13 Xavier took control with an 18-point run Wednesday night, pulling away to a 96-70 victory over Kent State.
The Musketeers (8-1) built upon their impressive week. They beat No. 16 Baylor 76-63 last Tuesday at the Cintas Center. Four days later, they hosted crosstown rival Cincinnati, got ahead by 23 points and beat the then-No. 11 Bearcats 89-76.
Up next is Colorado. The Musketeers lost to Baylor, Cincinnati and Colorado last season.
“We just talked about it,” said Sean O’Mara, who had 14 points. “We’ve got Baylor already, we’ve got UC already. They’re next on the list.”
Xavier never trailed against Kent State (5-4) , which kept it close at the outset with solid shooting but never recovered from the Musketeers’ run that began late in the first half. Danny Pippen led the defending Mid-American Conference champions with 15 points.
“We fouled too much,” said Kent State’s Jalen Avery, who had 13 points. “We weren’t in the right position. We were down 11-0, 14-4. If we can learn from this, it will help us in the MAC. We won’t play a team like this in the MAC.”
Bluiett hit two 3s as Xavier opened the game with a 14-2 spurt, making its first six shots. After tough games against ranked teams, coach Chris Mack wanted his players to make sure they didn’t come out flat.
“I got asked four or five times about a letdown,” Mack said. “You can’t shield your guys from hearing people ask about it. I didn’t want that to happen to us. I thought from the very beginning we were ready to go.”
Kerem Kanter added a season-high 20 points along with eight rebounds.
Xavier has won 36 straight non-conference home games, the last loss coming against Wofford 56-55 on Dec. 22, 2012. The Musketeers are 234-35 all-time at the Cintas Center.
Kent State: Leading scorer Jaylin Walker (17.7 points per game) missed his third straight game with an ankle injury. Seven-foot center Adonis De La Rosa led the Golden Flashes the two previous games, averaging 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds. Xavier took him out of the game. He managed only two points and fouled out with 13:09 to go.
“We wanted to make sure we stopped him early,” Kanter said. “He’s an aggressive player. He got a couple of fouls early.”
Xavier: The Musketeers came in shooting 54 percent from the field, second-best in the nation. Bluiett went 3 for 3 and Xavier made its first six shots while pulling out to a double-digit lead. The Musketeers shot 53 percent overall from the field.
A LOT OF WHISTLES
The officials called 44 fouls. Xavier went 24 of 25 on free throws, while Kent State — which came in shooting only 58.9 percent from the line — was 16 of 22. Both teams were in the bonus at 11:32 of the first half. Xavier had trouble getting its offense into a flow with all the fouls.
“But it went both ways,” O’Mara said. “I think they had issues with it, too. Once we adjusted to it, we got our offense flowing.”
Pippen also got a technical foul early in the game.
The Golden Flashes make an hour drive north and play at Wright State on Saturday.
The Musketeers host Colorado on Saturday, the fourth of their six straight home games.
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