What happened: Xavier 62 - Butler 47
Well that just happened, and somewhat unexpectedly. I'm on the brink of totally recalibrating my expectations for this year. Before we get to that, though, let's do what we always do here: look at the numbers.
Senior forward Jeff Robinson put up 17/8/0 with 2 steals on 7-13/1-5/2-3 shooting. The cynics in the crowd - including but no limited to my brother and co-writer Brad D - will think that we've seen this before from Robinson, and in a sense we have. Robinson has made a habit of posting superlative lines for a few games in a row before completely disappearing for the remainder of the season, but allow me to throw out this theory: this is the new JRob. He caught nothing but the bottom of the net on a handful of mid-range jumpers. More instructively, he had the nerve to keep shooting threes even when they weren't falling. Would the Jeff Robinson of old have done that? I don't know, but I don't think so.
The line that tells the next most about the game is Rotnei Clarke's 7/5/5 on 3-11/1-7/0-0 shooting. Clarke is normally a deadeye shooter and the lynch pin of Butler's offensive attack, but the defense of the Xavier Musketeers as a whole and Dee Davis in particular kept him frustrated and in check. Davis was in Clarke's shirt the entire game. With three and a half minutes left in the game, Roosevelt Jones annihilated Davis with a moving screen, encapsulating his entire team's frustration with Davis' efforts in one offensive foul.
The Travis Taylor for whom Xavier fans were waiting all of last season seems to have arrived this year. Taylor's 15/9/3 came with no turnovers and on 7-10/0-0/1-4 shooting. Taylor showed exceptional patience on the post in contrast to his overeager and hurried approach last season. He showed a nice up and under and one interesting move where he pivoted about half a dozen times before showing a nice little lefty hook. Taylor and Robinson may be emerging as a force inside.
After jumping out early and then holding a seven-point lead to the half, Xavier allowed a 3-0 spurt from Butler to cut the Musketeers' lead to four. From there on out, in the parlance of the program, the Bulldogs got zipped up. From the 18-minute mark through the end of the game, Xavier held their opponent to 15 points on 6-25/1-9/2-6 shooting and forced 5 turnovers along the way. When the game needed winning, it was Xavier's defense that stepped up and got the job done.
Semaj Christon's scoring output was somewhat underwhelming, but his 2/1/8 line was a nice glimpse of things to come, even though it was marred by 5 turnovers. Coach Mack said in the post-game that Christon couldn't extend his elbow enough to shoot in practice yesterday, but they were able to loosen him up enough to make a free throw viable today. Christon was clearly a bit jittery to start, and he will need time to grow into the college game, but he showed a willingness to make the extra pass and move the defense today that has to be comforting to Xavier fans.
Odds and ends:
-Dee Davis put up 9/1/2 on 2-6/1-4/4-4 shooting, but his line belies his impact on the game. He set the tempo, kept the Muskies calm, and generally looked like he was a ten-year veteran. His defensive efforts were too much to Rotnei Clarke.
-Brad Redford put up 9 points on 3-4/3-4/0-0 shooting. His made threes were a two-dribble step-back from the corner and a pair of head fake and escape dribble bombs.
-Erik Stenger didn't score and only had four boards, but he was the Dee Davis of forwards, throwing his body all over the court and doing all the little things necessary to frustrate the opponent.
-Xavier came away with 14 assists to 9 turnovers.
(My dad is an old-school basketball guy and a die-hard X fan, and he and I text throughout the games from time to time. His opinions can be both insightful and entertaining, especially pulled from their context. Below is a sampling of his offerings tonight.)
-"Of course, he just made a three."
-"OK, he needs to stop now."
-"Nice steal and finish by Davis."
-"Rob with the left hand and the foul? Don't wake him."
-"Facial by Davis."
-"They are not giving Red an inch."
-"Red with the step back, money!"
-"Taylor with an excellent seal. Got the defender on his hip, one-step bucket. Of course, he did beat a white kid."
-"The way Rob is playing must be irking Brad."
-"Taylor looks smooth on the assist to Martin."
-"We need more motion on offense; too much standing around, and Tu is gone."
-"Good first half. Enjoyed half time."
-"Wells would look really good in an X uniform right now. Getting away from us."
-"Taylor scores on a triple-team. Big time play."
-"Martin with a nice runner."
-"RED. Fake, step, dagger."
-"Even up 11, I'm not comfortable."
-"Rob is throwing bricks. Sit down... Of course, he just dunked."
-"X is playing great D and making some tough shots."
-"Taylor with a sweet step and in."
-"I can't get over the defensive effort; all five guys getting after it."
-After Redford's final three: "THE RED MENACE!!! Please use that."
-"Where is that dude who did so well the other night. Oh there he is; Farr."
-"Another can of butt whup used by X today."
That's it from me. Stay tuned for Brad's narrative recap tomorrow morning. Xavier is back in action Saturday at 2PM, hosting Robert Morris.