Xavier rolled over Division II Northwood University, 97-77, Saturday afternoon in its only public exhibition of the preseason.
The Musketeers showed off their perimeter talent against the Timberwolves as Edmond Sumner, Remy Abell, Trevon Bluiett, JP Macura, Larry Austin and Myles Davis led them offensively. Sumner had a team-high 17 points, Abell finished with 14 Bluiett had 14, Austin had 12 and Davis had nine, but it was Macura who made the most of his final preseason opportunity by scoring 14 points in 18 minutes of action.
It took Macura all of four minutes on the court in the first half to reach double-figures with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including a pair of threes and an and-one finish, as he helped the Musketeers pull out to a 52-38 halftime lead.
He finished the game 5-of-9 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3-point range with two rebounds and a steal. Most important to head coach Chris Mack, he had zero turnovers.
“He did a really good job tonight,” Mack said. “To have no turnovers is a really good thing for JP.”
Out of the perimeter players on Xavier’s roster, Macura had as much to gain as anyone in the preseason. With a crowded backcourt, making good on early opportunities will be crucial for him in carving out his role. However, he also knows he has to do more than just make shots off the bench on a team loaded with shooters.
“I just think that if I focus on the little things like not turning the ball over and playing hard, I’ll get more minutes,” Macura said. “I have to be able to do more things than just shoot.”
In his freshman season, defense was a struggle for him. While Mack says Macura is still a work in progress on that end, he’s seen improvements from last year to this year in his sophomore sharp shooter.
“He plays really hard,” Mack said. “He has to be able to discipline himself to play the way that we want defensively. I think he’s a risk taker and a gambler on both ends of the court. He has a lot of talent, but we have to rein that in on the defensive end.”
Macura knows he isn’t the quickest laterally, but he tries to make up for it with his effort and his focus on defense. At the 7:30 mark of the first half, his diving attempt knocked a ball away from a Northwood player and earned his team an extra possession. It was the Musketeers’ first steal of the game.
“I feel like I’ve made a jump,” Macura said. “I’m working every day on my defense trying to get better, but I still have a long way to go. I’m just trying to be smarter in different situations, knowing where my player is at, seeing both the ball and my guy.”
His overall game will dictate how many minutes he can stay on the court, but regardless of his improvement in other areas, the quick-strike scoring ability Macura showed off the bench on Saturday will ensure he gets his chances.