Xavier’s Paul Scruggs (1) dribbles during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
- Xavier is a 2.5-point favorite at home over UConn on Saturday in a Big East game at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati
- Xavier will be playing for the first time since Jan. 30 as its season was interrupted by COVID-19 protocols
- The odds, lines and spread for Xavier-UConn can be found below with analysis
Xavier will look to shake off the rust and stay in the thick of the Big East race when it hosts UConn at 12 p.m. ET Saturday at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati.
Xavier is 11-2 overall, 4-2 in the Big East and on a three-game winning streak. The Musketeers will be playing for the first time since Jan. 30 because of COVID-19 protocols. They are in third place in the conference behind Villanova (8-1) and Creighton (11-4).
UConn (8-5, 5-5) has lost back-to-back games and four of its last five and are the underdog in this matchup. The Huskies are also on a three-game losing streak against the spread.
Xavier vs UConn Odds
|UConn||+110||+2.5 (-118)||Over 134.5 (-110)|
|Xavier||-143||-2.5 (+100)||Under 134.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Feb. 12 from FoxBet
Scruggs Sparks Xavier
Before Xavier went on its unexpected two-week break, senior guard Paul Scruggs scored 24 points to lead the Musketeers to a 68-55 victory at Butler on Jan. 30 as a two-point underdog.
It was the second-highest scoring output of the season for Scruggs and his fourth game with at least 20 points. He also had seven rebounds and three assists.
Overall, Scruggs is averaging 14.6 points, 6.0 assists and 1.7 steals.
Xavier needed Scruggs’ offense as leading scorer Zach Freemantle was held to six points, though the sophomore forward did pull down 10 rebounds. It was the second-lowest point total of the season for Freemantle, who is averaging 15.0 points and 8.1 rebounds.
Junior guard Adam Kunkel provided some unexpected scoring with 15 points. It marked just the second time in eight games this season that the Belmont transfer reached double figures.
Kunkel did beat Marquette at the buzzer in December.
ADAM KUNKEL!!! AT THE BUZZER!!! pic.twitter.com/fK88cogamE
— Paul Fritschner (@PaulFritschner) December 20, 2020
Senior guard Nate Johnson made 4 of 6 shots from 3-point range to finish with 14 points, lifting his season average to 11.5. Johnson is shooting 52.2% from beyond the arc.
Xavier made just 6 of 12 free throws for 50.0%. The Musketeers helped offset that by holding Butler to 34.3% shooting, including 20.0% on 3-point tries.
Cold Shooting Dooms UConn
UConn dropped a 70-59 decision at Providence on Wednesday as a 2.5-point favorite. The Huskies shot just 20.0% on 3-pointers, making 4 of 20, and was 5 for 9 at the foul line for 55.6%.
R.J. Cole was a bright spot with 14 points and six assists. Fellow junior guard Tyrese Martin added 13 points and nine rebounds while freshman forward Adama Sanogo had his best all-round game with nine points, eight rebounds and a career-best five blocked shots.
— UConn Men’s Basketball (@UConnMBB) February 10, 2021
Cole and Martin have stepped up their scoring during the seven games sophomore guard James Bouknight – who is averaging a team-high 20.3 points a game — has missed while rehabbing from elbow surgery.
Martin had been in double digits in all seven games and Cole has reached that mark in the last six games.
Martin is averaging 11.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game while shooting 46.4% from long range. Cole has averages of 11.2 points and 4.0 assists.
— UConn Men’s Basketball (@UConnMBB) January 27, 2021
Sanogo has also picked up the scoring pace recently. He is averaging 10.8 points in his last five games after averaging just 4.0 points in his first eight games.
First-Time Big East Rivals
This marks the first time Xavier and UConn have met as members of the Big East. The Musketeers joined the conference for the 2013-14 season, which marked the same year the Huskies left for the American Athletic Conference before returning this season.
Xavier did outlast UConn 75-74 in double overtime in the Charleston Classic last season as a five-point favorite.
Scruggs and Bouknight each scored 19 points.
Xavier figures to be a little rusty after being off for so long. However, the Musketeers have the better team and figure to prevail in what should be a tight game.
Pick: Xavier -2.5 (-100)
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.