Kevin Jairaj - USA Today Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs Northern Iowa

Before every game, Rick takes a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Saturday's afternoon rematch with Northern Iowa at the Cintas Center.

Edmond Sumner SO (6-6, 186) vs Juwan McCloud FR (5-11, 173)

McCloud is a short but strong and athletic point guard with a tight handle. He's typically the only guard that can consistently get into the lane and make plays for the Panthers, but he wasn't able to do much of anything in the first game against X. He finished with 3 points (1-4 FG, 0-2 3PT, 1-2 FT), 5 assists, 2 steals, and 3 turnovers. That assist number is a little misleading, though, as most of his came on ordinary passes to the wing where his teammates hit a quick three. He didn't do much creating against X, regardless of who was guarding him. Sumner defended him some, but Bernard and Goodin were also on him at times. Sumner finished with 17 points (6-14 FG, 0-3 3PT, 5-6 FT), three assists, three rebounds, two steals, and four turnovers. 

Significant Edge Xavier

JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) Wyatt Lohaus JR (6-2, 180)

Lohaus is a smallish combo guard that typically looks to space along the 3-point line and spot-up, though he has a little bit of craft to his game as well. He's off to a poor start to the year, averaging just 3.3 points per game on 22.7 percent shooting, including 2-of-10 from 3-point range. He didn't do much last Sunday against X. He posted 4 points (1-4 FG, 1-2 3PT, 1-2 FT) and a steal in 29 minutes. Macura had his most low-key performance of the season so far against Northern Iowa in Orlando. He had just 10 points (3-9 FG, 2-5 3PT, 2-3 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist, and 2 turnovers in 32 minutes. That seemed to mostly be a function of Sumner and Bluiett being more aggressive offensively. Don't be surprised if Macura blows up for a big game against this very favorable matchup. 

Significant Edge Xavier

Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Jeremy Morgan SR (6-5, 195)

Morgan is UNI's best player. He's a wing shooter with length and athleticism that rebounds well and gets it done on defense. He led the Panthers with 20 points on 5-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-9 from deep, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 3 turnovers in 38 minutes Sunday night against the Musketeers. He hit some tough shots but the Musketeers also lost him a few times in transition or other loose ball situations. Bernard didn't really get beat during the time he was guarding Morgan. Sumner, Macura, and Trevon Bluiett also spent time defending him. Bernard wasn't much of a factor offensively in the first game, finishing with 3 points (1-4 FG, 1-3 3PT), 2 rebounds, a steal, and 2 turnovers in 35 minutes. It will be interesting to see how much his minutes are affected by the return of Kaiser Gates. 

Moderate Edge UNI

Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs Klint Carlson JR (6-7, 222)

Carlson is a face-up forward with a well-rounded skill-set and decent athleticism. He does a lot of pick-and-pop work within UNI's offense and he also has a strong first step going to his dominant left hand off the bounce. He was tremendous down in Orlando except for the game against Xavier where he only had 9 points (3-10 FG, 2-4 3PT, 1-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 turnover in 38 minutes. Bluiett did a great job defensively against him, using his quicker feet and comparable strength to contain the versatile forward. At the other end of the court, Bluiett struggled with his 3-point shot but was very effective working in the mid-range against the Panthers. He finished with a game-high 21 points (7-19 FG, 2-10 3PT, 5-6 FT), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a turnover in 40 minutes. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Carlson play better in this game, but Bluiett clearly held a significant advantage in this matchup the first time around. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Sean O'Mara JR (6-10, 244) vs Bennett Koch JR (6-9, 234)

Koch is a big man that moves fluidly with good feet. On offense, he's comfortable catching the ball 10-12 feet from the rim and working in isolation off the dribble, often with spin moves. He finished with 11 points (4-8 FG, 3-6 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 6 turnovers in the first game against X. O'Mara was in foul trouble early and had a few defensive struggles, which led to him only playing 11 minutes on Sunday. He finished 0-for-1 from the field with three rebounds, a steal, and two turnovers. He'll get a chance to redeem himself today but, with Gates back in the mix, his leash will likely be rather short if he struggles at all.

Slight Edge UNI

Xavier Bench vs Northern Iowa Bench

Redshirt freshman Spencer Haldeman (6-1, 173) is a small, scrappy spot-up shooter, who will serve as the Panthers' primary ballhandler at times. He only played 11 minutes in the first game against Xavier and finished with 1 point (0-4 FG, 1-2 FT) and 1 rebound. Iowa State grad transfer Jordan Ashton (6-4, 192), a senior guard, is mostly just a spot-up shooter on offense, but he's a fundamentally solid player overall. He had 8 points (3-3 FG, 2-2 3PT) and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes against X on Sunday night. Xavier's frontcourt depth was a big factor in the first game as Chris Mack was able to rotate his three big men in-and-out despite foul trouble. Gaston came off the bench and played 19 minutes, finishing with 6 points (2-5 FG, 2-2 FT), 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block and 1 turnover. Tyrique Jones played 10 minutes and scored 4 points (2-3 FG) while grabbing 3 rebounds. Point guard Quentin Goodin looked as confident as he's been all season as he scored 6 points (3-4 FG, 0-1 3PT, 0-1 FT) with 3 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and no turnovers in 18 minutes. He made ESPN's Sportscenter with his drive and authoritative dunk in the first half of that game. UNI's lack of athleticism in its backcourt is a favorable matchup for Goodin. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Overall

Northern Iowa's best offense in the first game between these teams was pushing the ball in transition for quick, clean 3-point looks. The Panthers caught the Musketeers out of position a few times early in possessions. However, that style doesn't coincide with the strategy that UNI wants to employ on offense. The plan is to be more methodical and patient, creating movement and wearing down the defense first. In the first matchup, the Panthers weren't able to win enough one-on-one matchups against XU's defense in the halfcourt to put pressure on the Musketeers with penetration and force them to help off of shooters. It will be interesting to see if they tweak their offensive philosophy this time against X. They shot a higher percentage from beyond the arc (10-24, 41.7%) than they did inside of it (8-24, 33.3%) on Sunday. In the second half, it felt like the only way they could score at all was by hitting a quick three or drawing a foul. Don't be surprised to see them jack even more deep balls today. There doesn't seem to be any other logical path to victory for them that doesn't involve Xavier faltering in a fairly significant way at the Cintas Center.

Predicted score: Xavier 74 Northern Iowa 65


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