Last year when Tu Holloway had a bad game (Marquette, Charlotte) Xavier lost. When this year started, Mark Lyons took the fore as a second scorer who would assure that teams couldn't key on Tu and ruin nights for legions of Xavier fans. Unfortunately, Lyons is suspended and last night was another of those ruined nights.
To say things were going poorly from the tip would be a bit of an exaggeration, but it didn't take long. Much like in the ORU debacle on Sunday, Xavier led this game early before a long offensive malaise set in. With 12 minutes to play, Xavier led, 9-6. With nine minutes to play, a 10-0 LBSU run had put the Musketeers down seven. A Justin Martin three with six to play cut the lead to five, but that was as close as Xavier would get for the rest of the game.
The story of this game was once again the failure of the marginal Xavier players to contribute in any meaningful way. Brad Redford was good for 3/2/0 on 1-3 from the floor in ten minutes, Jeff Robinson chipped in 2/3/0 on 1-7 from the floor in 27 minutes, and managed to miss three separate dunk attempts. Dee Davis was better at 5/0/2 with two steals in 20 minutes, but he also turned the ball over twice. Kenny Frease and Tu Holloway were left to do all the heavy lifting once again.
The second half opened with Xavier down 29-21, but needing only a couple of quick baskets to get back into the game. Instead, The Beach ripped off an 8-2 run to put the game beyond all doubt. With the game out of reach, the most disturbing part of the evening occurred. Down double digits and needing a rally, Xavier instead evinced a palpable apathy. Tu Holloway, to his credit, kept attacking the rim, but the rest of the team seemed listless at best. Even glue guy and constant hustler Andre Walker seemed to have no spring in his step. Even a brief spurt around the 11 minute mark that cut the lead to eight didn't really seem to lift the spirits of the Musketeers.
The concern is that the Musketeers seemed to be aware that Mark Lyons and Dez Wells would be back soon, and that this game was merely a distraction until then. While Lyons and Wells are returning soon, every game matters. The sluggish effort today suggested that the team was not properly motivated, either by the coaching staff or by one another. That cannot happen again.
Can Xavier keep up? Xavier successfully slowed the game, but failed to make that count. As Joel mentioned, LBSU can also win slow games, and yesterday demonstrated that. When X couldn't convert in the half court, the pace ceased to matter.
Can Big Kenny bounce back? 10/1/0 says no. Kenny was limited by fouls to only 21 minutes on the floor. At some point, foul trouble is no longer picky refs or guards making plays, it's just a big man being sloppy. Kenny is generally clean with his hands, and a monster with the body. Until he fixes that, he'll still be limited.
Who guards Ennis/Anderson? Ennis and Anderson (19 and 6-15 from the floor combined) weren't as big a factor as they could have been thanks to concentrated defensive effort. Michael Caffey, unfortunately, went off. A bench guy torching you is another sign of a team that isn't ready.
- Brad Redford finished with a -16 line for the ten minutes he played. He's 1-11 from the floor in the last three games. As a shooter with minimal utility, Redford is in a crucial stretch right. Poor defensively and struggling to score, he's not bringing anything to the table that Dee Davis doesn't do better.
- Jeff Robinson was an abomination last night. Once again he missed easy shots, allowed easy baskets, and didn't compete on the glass.
Next Game: 1:30 am on ESPNU vs. Hawai'i