CINCINNATI (AP) No. 23 Xavier's first game as a ranked team in four years wasn't up to the Musketeers' standards.
Trevon Bluiett had 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for his second career double-double, and the Musketeers overcame a ragged showing and beat Northern Kentucky 78-66 on Monday night.
The Musketeers (4-0) jumped into the Top 25 with lopsided wins over Missouri and Michigan. They used their balance to shake free of the Norse (1-3) in the second half, but weren't happy at all with the listless way they played.
''The whole 40 minutes, that was frustrating,'' coach Chris Mack said. ''Our energy level and effort was completely unacceptable. That was embarrassing.''
The Musketeers acknowledged that their 86-70 win at Michigan on Friday and their long-awaited return to the Top 25 went to their heads.
''I honestly can't sit here and tell you we did anything well,'' senior Myles Davis said. ''They played harder than us. We weren't ready to play. We didn't look like we were coming off a win. We didn't look like we moved into the Top 25.''
In the end, their balance and talent advantage were enough. Six Musketeers reached double figures. Forward James Farr had 13 points and eight rebounds.
''To come out and show the effort we did today is mind-boggling,'' Farr said.
Tyler White scored a career-high 25 points for Northern Kentucky, which is just a short drive away from the other side of the Ohio River. The Norse thought they might catch the Musketeers in a lull coming off their big win. They were right.
''It's about timing,'' coach John Brannen said. ''It's a long season. I thought we could come in with some energy that could help us out a little bit, and it probably did to a certain extent.''
Xavier built big advantages in rebounds and free throws, a common thread to its season. The Musketeers have outrebounded opponents by more than 15 per game on average. Xavier had a 45-34 advantage in rebounds and went 26 of 34 from the free throw line.
Bluiett had 11 points and nine rebounds in the first half, which ended with Xavier up 44-35. The Norse made a season-high seven 3s in the first half, hitting shots over Xavier's 1-3-1 zone defense.
The Musketeers pushed the pace to get layups and draw fouls. Farr had a fast-break dunk off a pass from Remy Abell that got Northern Kentucky's attention and prompted the Norse to get back faster the rest of the way.
The two different styles led to a big differential in free throws. Xavier went 12 of 19 on free throws in the first half - the Musketeers missed only three in their win over Michigan. By contrast, Northern Kentucky got only two free throws, settling for perimeter shots.
Xavier missed its first six 3-point attempts in the second half, keeping it close. Davis and Bluiett then hit 3s that pushed the lead to 62-45.
Bluiett's rebounds were the most by a Xavier player since Justin Martin had 16 against Creighton on March 14, 2014.
Xavier's J.P. Macura missed his first free throw. He went 14 of 14 from the line in the first three games.
Northern Kentucky: The Norse hadn't made more than six 3-pointers in any of their first three games. They went 7 of 17 from beyond the arc in the first half alone and finished 9 of 22.
Xavier: Jalen Reynolds, a 6-foot-10 junior forward, had missed both of his career 3-pointers before Monday. He thought about shooting on one an early trip down the court, but held up. He then made one from the top of the key.
Northern Kentucky: The Norse play at North Carolina A&T next Monday.
Xavier: The Musketeers face Alabama on Thursday in the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando.
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