The Xavier Musketeers took as comprehensive a beating as they have in quite some time on Saturday afternoon. With a chance to re-establish dominance in the Atlantic 10, break the spirits of their rival, and make a significant RPI jump, Xavier instead played as gutless a game as you are ever likely to see. By the time Matt Kavanaugh was done with his Wilt Chamberlain impression and Kevin Dillard was done putting on a point guard clinic, the Musketeers were wishing for the halcyon days of The Funk.
Xavier actually, briefly, led in this game, after a Dez Wells three pointer made the score 3-0. From that point on, the Musketeers were outscored by 18 and never led again. Indeed, after a Paul Williams three and two Kavanaugh free throws, the score was never even tied again. As a rabid pack of over 13,000 red clad fans screamed their lungs out, Xavier simply rolled over.
It didn't have to be this way. Coming into the game anyone capable of watching film or reading a stat line knew that Dayton would come out firing from deep. Including yesterday, the Flyers have attempted 405 threes in just 19 games. That's 55th in the nation. The Musketeers however, paid no heed to the numbers and seemed mystified as to how to approach Dayton on the defensive end. The Flyers buried six threes in the first half on their way to a 13 point 46-33 lead. Fresh off allowing 16 points in a half, the Musketeers nearly allowed 50.
It was just the exterior defense that was unforgivable though, the bigs also managed to lose their way. With Dayton not being a wonderful rebounding team, it stood to reason that Xavier, especially Kenny Frease, should have been very competitive on the boards. Instead, Dayton out rebounded the Musketeers 23 to 15 in the first half. Most incredibly, the teams essentially split on Dayton's 15 misses, with the Flyers grabbing seven offensive rebounds to the Musketeers eight defensive. With defense merely an afterthought both inside and outside, Xavier went into the half in a world of hurt.
Rather than take the world by storm out of the half, the Musketeers seemed almost resigned to their fate. It wasn't the outside shooting (8-14) or turnovers (only nine) that cost Xavier the game, but rather a 42.8% mark from inside the arc, and a 50% mark from the line. It wasn't as if the Flyers were dominant defensively either, only managing three blocks and two steals. In short, the Musketeers crippled themselves by simply playing very badly.
Despite playing horribly, Xavier could have been in with a chance if they had been effective from the line. Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway combined to go 8-11, while the rest of the team was a laughably bad 4-13. Yes, 4-13. With that pathetic performance fueled mostly by Andre Walker's 1-5, the team had no real chance to come back.
That's not to say they didn't make a couple of efforts though. Twice the lead shrank to 11 as Holloway and Lyons combined for 25 points in the second period. Every time Xavier looked anything like making a game of it though, Dayton answered. First, a 6-0 Dayton run extended the lead to 64-47 after a Travis Taylor dunk. When Dez Wells dunked in transition with 3:24 to play, Dayton responded with a 4-0 mini run that removed all doubt. At no point in the second half did the Musketeers come within single digits.
Will Tu come to score? Sort of. Tu had 21, but six of those came well after the game was beyond reach. While the game was still in doubt, Tu was 5-14 from the floor. Something is still wrong with the All-American. It was clear he wanted to take the game over late, but he waited far too long.
Can Big Kenny dominate? No. 5/5/2 on 2-8 from the floor and 1-3 from the line. Frease was completely ineffective all game long. Instead, Matt Kavanaugh dominated him in every possible way.
How flexible is Xavier? With Dayton's bigs causing matchup issues, Xavier was going to have to shift things up on defense a bit to be successful. Instead, the Flyers cut the defense to shreds. The generally clueless LaPhonso Ellis was commentating and very astutely pointed out that no one on Xavier could stop the dribble. Dayton players ran to tthe paint all day and left the ball off for dunks or pitched to wide open shooters. It looked like a late 90s And 1 mixtape.
Things I liked:
1. When it was over
2. Mark Lyons: Lyons was again the heart of the team. At no point did his intensity waver or his defense slacken. Lyons was the only player who fought the whole game. His 20/6/3 on 7-14/3-5/3-5 was far and away the highlight for the Musketeers. For some reason though, the team did not respond to Lyons example.
3. Jeff Robinson: Robinson managed 7/5/1 in 19 minutes and was very useful off the bench to continue his good run. Robinson showed a confidence, even after an awful turnover, that his game has been missing.
Things I didn't like:
1. Gameplan: Xavier's defense coming out failed to even begin to negate the three point shooting of the Flyers. Rather than adjust at all, Xavier allowed Dayton to follow the six three pointers they made in the first half they with five more in the second half. Part of stopping three point shooting is rattling the shooters, but UD was comfortable enough to attempt 14 in each half. The fact that Coach Mack never adjusted his defense was inexplicable.
The offense was no better. 72 points is by no means a bad total, but that number reflects a defensive let down from Dayton late. Xavier scored only 30 points in the paint for the game. Part of that was due to misses inside, but a great deal of it also came from a gameplan that seemed to consist of nothing but dribbling and stepback jumpers. At no point did the coaching staff make the adjustment to pound the ball inside.
2. The Bigs: Andre Walker, Travis Taylor, and Kenny Frease were very, very bad on Saturday. Walker has a good deal of cachet to fall back on, but this game seemed a continuation of a bad run from Frease and Taylor. Walker included, the bigs were simply soft inside. Kavanaugh dominated whoever matched up on him and Dayton rebounded far too many of their own misses for a comeback to happen. Post players have to be tough, and Xavier's weren't even close.
3. The whole game: Outplayed, outcoached, outachieved. Xavier was never in this thing and never looked like getting back into. Listless, and sometimes appearing apathetic, the Musketeers were a shadow of the team that crushed Duquesne and St. Bonaventure.
Next game: St Louis @ the Cintas, Wednesday at 7pm