What happened: Xavier 117 - Fairleigh Dickinson 75
With Semaj Christon missing through a minor elbow injury, there was some question regarding where the points might come from for Xavier. Xavier's performance tonight showed that - at least for one game - such a question was a relic from the era that came to a halt over the summer. Last year, the Muskies depended on inspired single efforts from a handful of skilled players to carry the team. Tonight, it was an unselfish whole-squad effort that got the job done.
Which isn't to say that there weren't great single efforts involved. Sophomore guard Dee Davis was transcendent on the evening, putting up 22/4/15 on 8-11/5-7/1-1 shooting. Davis' 15 assists are a new sophomore record for the Xavier program. In a sequence early in the game where it looked like Xavier may be in for a long night, Davis scored 8 points and handed out 3 assists in six trips down the floor to swing the game irretrievably in Xavier's favor. In a night full of big performances, I can't say enough about the level of play Davis brought to the floor.
Davis got his numbers in 32 minutes before being replaced by walk-on Tim Whelan; almost equally as impressive was the fact that Brad Redford needed only 17 minutes to get his 19/2/0. After sputtering from deep for much of last season as he recovered from knee surgery, Redford shot 6-7/6-7/1-1 tonight and buried a couple of his shots almost as soon as he caught the ball.
Travis Taylor had a miserable time of it last season, but tonight he looked like everything he was supposed to be when he transferred in. Taylor went for 20/12/3 on 7-9/0-0/6-7 with no turnovers. After an entire season of looking skittish and rushed, Taylor was surprisingly composed on the ball tonight. He attacked the glass aggressively, stayed out of foul trouble, and picked his spots well on offense. This is the Takeoff Trav Xavier fans were waiting for.
One of our keys to the game in the preview was to move the basketball, and Xavier did just that tonight. On the 43(!) field goals that Xavier made, they picked up 25 assists. Obviously Dee Davis' efforts set the tone, but the Musketeers were moving the ball tonight more than they had in a long while. All those extra passes paid off against the sloppy zone and later sloppy man defense of Fairleigh Dickinson, and the Muskies ended up shooting 43-61/13-21/18-21 on the night. X will come up against better defensive teams this year, but moving the ball like that will pay dividends against any opponent.
Odds and ends:
-Xavier dressed seven scholarship players tonight; each one of them scored at least 11 points.
-There were a lot of encouraging stat lines (obviously), but Justin Martin's 11/6/6 and Jeff Robinson's 16/7/0 both showed a level off effort and intensity those two often lacked last season.
-There were 60 missed shots in tonight's game; Fairleigh Dickinson rebounded 11 of them.
-James Farr debuted with 14/4/0 and showcased a variety of skills. He knocked down two threes, grabbed four offensive boards, and blocked a shot.
-Xavier hit 100 with more than six minutes remaining. Xavier's first walk-on checked in with 18 minutes left in the game. This was a butt-kicking.
(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.)
-"Where is Red? Not starting? Outrageous."
-"Dante is on the bench."
-"Who is Stenger?"
-[Before I could answer]: "Love Stenger; he's already making me forget about Big Kenny."
-"FDU in a zone; give me Red."
-"Tu who? Give me Davis."
-"We are owning the glass."
-"Finally dumped that stiff Lyons so Dee could shine."
-"Unreal! Even Robinson looks good."
-"Dante is the difference!"
-"Never doubted X could do it!"
-"Who is #14? He looks like he's 12."
-"They could score 150. Long trip home for FDU."
-"Three-headed monster would be balling tonight."
-"FDU is yet to play their walk-ons. If you don't get into this one, you're never going to play."
-"Seven players in double figures. Dee is outside of his mind."
-"Dee Davis interview. He even does that better than Lyons."
That's it from me. Stay tuned for Brad's narrative recap tomorrow morning. Xavier is back in action at 4pm on Tuesday, hosting Butler.