CINCINNATI - Matt Stainbrook has longed for this game.
The slimmed-down senior center finally got back into a game after sitting out a season and gave a performance that met even his high expectations.
Stainbrook had 13 points and 12 rebounds in his Xavier debut on Friday night, and the Musketeers pulled away for an 83-59 victory over Gardner-Webb without point guard Dee Davis, sidelined by a concussion.
Xavier (1-0) has won 24 straight season openers since a loss to Southern Utah State in 1989. They've won all 14 openers at the Cintas Center, where they're 83-12 against nonconference teams.
This one was special for Stainbrook, who sat out last season as a transfer from Western Michigan. The last Xavier player to have a double-double in his debut was Jamel McLean with 10 points and 10 rebounds against IPFW in 2008.
"It's been on my calendar for a long time: `So I'm sitting out this year, when's the first game? It's on the calendar. Cool,"' Stainbrook said. "Now I'm just looking forward to the rest of the season."
The center dropped nearly 50 pounds since transferring, adding quickness to his game. He also led a dominant rebounding performance -- Xavier had a 45-27 advantage on the boards.
The 6-foot-10, 263-pounder couldn't stay on the court for more than a few minutes at a time at Western Michigan. He played 21 minutes on Friday, twice his average at Western Michigan.
"I hope you see more of him," coach Chris Mack said. "He's a very, very efficient player. We need him to be on the floor."
Donta Harper had 20 points for Gardner-Webb (0-1), which trailed by 19 points at halftime and never challenged again.
Semaj Christon added 14 points for Xavier, but went only 6 of 12 from the free-throw line.
League Commissioner Val Ackerman was courtside for Xavier's first game as part of the Big East. The only downside for Xavier: the injuries.
Davis suffered a concussion during a scrimmage two weeks ago. The junior point guard also missed time last season with a concussion. Freshman Brandon Randolph took his place and had 12 points and seven assists, two steals and only one turnover.
"Randolph for a freshman was insanely good," Mack said.
Last season, the Musketeers didn't have another proven point guard behind Davis. Randolph showed he's capable of running the offense.
"He's kind of a quiet guy and he's got a chip on his shoulder," Stainbrook said. "When he plays, he's as confident as anyone. I see him as an older guy. I don't see him as a freshman because of his demeanor and the way he acts on the court."
Freshman guard Myles Davis fell hard in the first half and went to the locker room to have his knee examined. He sat on the bench in the second half. He'll have the knee evaluated.
Forward Justin Martin got hit in the head while going up for a rebound in the closing minutes and was woozy, forcing him from the game.
The Musketeers pulled away 41-22 in the first half, doing everything right except hitting free throws. They went only 13 of 25 from the line in the opening half and 22 of 40 overall.
The Runnin' Bulldogs went 21-13 last season, the only Big South team to win 20 games. They're picked to finish second this season in their division behind regular season champion Charleston Southern.
Harper, a junior forward, showed why he's the Runnin' Bulldogs' top returning player. He went 7 of 16 from the field and had three rebounds. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 12.7 points and 4.9 rebounds as a sophomore.
Gardner-Webb got off to an encouraging start, scoring the first seven points. Xavier settled in and took control.
Christon got Xavier going with a 3-pointer and a three-point play that sparked an 11-2 run. He had a game-high 11 points in the first half despite going 4 of 9 on free throws. The ragged half included 28 fouls, many called for blocking on the perimeter.
Gardner-Webb fell apart just before halftime, turning the ball over twice in the last 3 seconds. Randolph was fouled twice and made three of his free throws.
"We were right there with them with three minutes left in the first half," coach Tim Craft said. "Those last few seconds really hurt us. We gave them points that we didn't need to.
"In general, they were more physical than we were. They went to the foul line 40 times, which is a sign that they were more aggressive. They played fast."