Fans hoping to see freshman standout Semaj Christon make his debut, were instead treated to another playmaking point guard breaking out for a big game.
Sophomore Dee Davis was sensational as he recorded his first career double-double with 22 points and 15 assists to lead the Musketeers. The point total marked a career-high, and the 15 assists were good enough for second most ever by a Xavier player.
"I just come out and play the same way," Davis said. "I just play hard and try to make the best of it."
Head Coach Chris Mack was pleased with his young point guard.
"Dee was our quarterback tonight, and will be," Head coach Chris Mack said. "He shot it very well in the preseason for us in practice.
Davis wasn't the only Musketeer to shine on Friday night. In fact, nearly every one of Xavier's seven scholarship players available for the game played well. Travis Taylor added a double-double of his own, leading the team in rebounds with 20 points and 12 boards, and Brad Redford showed his old quick-trigger, confident stroke off with a career-high six 3-pointers on his way to a 19 point performance. Lonnie Robinson scored on a nice drive to the basket for the first points of the game.
All seven scholarship players finished in double-digits.
Five minutes into the game Xavier found themselves trailling 13-12, thanks to the hot 3-point shooting of the Knights, who buried three 3-pointers. Dee Davis' second three of the first half with 13:55 to play gave Xavier a 17-15 lead, and marked the ninth lead change of the game. It'd also be the last.
Brad Redford buried a three on the right wing as he was fouled by Yves Jules on the next Xavier possession. The 4-point play extended Xavier's lead to 21-15, and the Musketeers were on a roll.
"It was a little tight in that first four minutes of the game. That kind of helped open it up and give us some momentum," Redford said. "It felt good to knock down that first shot and to get a free-throw is always a bonus."
That momentum snowballed quickly, thanks in large part to Davis' play.
Xavier's point guard had an assist on three straight field goals, including Justin Martin's lean-in jumper off the window that gave Xavier a double-digit lead, 27-17, at the under 12-minute media timeout.
"Dee's our leader at the point position," Redford said. "He does a good job of leading our team and getting us set in the offense, and thats what we need him to do every single day."
For the next several minutes, everything clicked at the same time for the Musketeers. In addition to his three 3-pointers, Davis dazzled with his ball-handling and passing, racking up assist after assist. Redford continued to light it up from the outside. The Musketeers big men shared the ball, making beautiful passes across the blocks and finding cutters down the lane. They also ran the floor hard on every play. Jeff Robinson played aggressive, trying to dunk on two different defenders and canning it whenever he got an open look from the outside. James Farr entered the game with enough confidence to bury a step-back 3-pointer, and then followed it up with a blocked shot on the defensive end. The offense pin-balled the basketball around, carving up Fairleigh Dickinson's matchup zone defense.
At the next media timeout, the lead had ballooned to 49-23, and the onslaught continued the rest of the half.
The Musketeers put on an impressive shooting display, led by Redford and Davis, who made 4-of-5 and 4-of-6 respectively from beyond the arc. Davis also had 12 first half assists, and four players reached double-figures before halftime, including Erik Stenger who scored 12 points and had four boards in the first half on a perfect 6-of-6 performance from the floor.
By halftime, Xavier had pushed the lead to 68-32.
The Muskies dominated inside, owning the battle of the boards 25-5 in the first half. They also out-scored Fairleigh Dickinson 22-4 in the paint.
The Knights were playing with a depleted roster as they were left with just seven scholarship players as well, due to suspending four players before the trip for disciplinary reasons and kicking one off a week ago. They were also unable to practice for a seven day period in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
"I was more worried about our team and just going out there and playing hard," Taylor said. "If they would have had more people, we would have still played just as hard."
The Musketeers added to the lead a little bit in the second half, while walk-ons Tim Whelan, Landen Amos, Joe Schuessler and Kevin Coker saw plenty of action, starting with 17:18 left in the game when Whelan checked in.
Mack tried to harp on his team's defense in the second half, which got a little sloppy with Fairleigh Dickinson scoring 43 points, but the good far outweighed the bad at the Cintas Center on Friday night.
"We recognize that they're not the team that they're going to be or that they wanted to be here tonight," Mack said. "On the defensive end, I wanted us to be better than we actually were. FDU made a lot of one-on-one shots. They didn't run a whole lot of action, probably because they haven't practiced much and had guys playing out of position. We gave up way too many points in the second half."
After only making one three-point attempt in their exhibition, the Musketeers drained 13-of-21 of their attempts against the Knights. From the field, Xavier shot 70.5 percent for the game.
Now Xavier will have to turn its attention to new conference rival Butler as the two teams will hook up on Tuesday at 4 pm as part of ESPN's 24-hour hoops kickoff marathon. Christon is expected to return for that game, though the Musketeers will still be without Isaiah Philmore, who is suspended for the first three games.