What happened: Xavier 63 - Purdue 57
We mentioned in the preview that Purdue was probably going to be superior on the glass today, but this performance was fairly embarrassing for Xavier. Purdue outrebounded Xavier 44-29, including 17-3 on the offensive end. Xavier only grabbed 9 more of Purdue's misses than the Boilermakers did. Foul trouble limited Jeff Robinson to nine minutes, and the rest of Xavier's front line struggled to hold its own against Purdue's heavier big men.
Fortunately, Xavier's defense was up to the challenge, holding Purdue to .350/.000/.652 shooting, including zero makes in seventeen attempts from beyond the arc. Coach Mack showed a lot of 2-3 and matchup zones, confounding the Boilermakers' interior offense at the risk of letting them get some looks from deep. The strategy obviously paid off. Xavier was able to hold Purdue scoreless for 6:03 after Terone Johnson's bucket at the 9:13 mark; X scored 8 in that stretch to take a 6-point lead they would never relinquish.
If there was any lingering doubt regarding who was the best player on the team coming into this game, Semaj Christon erased it all. In a game where a handful of Muskies were taking turns seeing who could be more worthless, Christon led the team with 25/4/4 on 8-11/1-1/8-8 shooting. Justin Martin was the only other Muskie to score in double figures, and his last points came with 17:06 left in the game. Christon was nails at the line down the stretch and - with Purdue down four, the shot clock running down, and him sitting at 1-6 from three on the year - found nothing but twine with a huge three with 2:49 left in the game. For a freshman to be the team's go-to guy down the stretch in his first true road game is staggering; for him to own it like Semaj did is nothing short of amazing.
God bless Travis Taylor for his effort, but he was giving up between 40 and 50 pounds to everyone who was guarding him today, and it showed on the offensive end. His final shooting line of 2-11/0-0/2-2 got him his six points, but he also grabbed seven boards and scrapped in the paint all day (often to little effect). He had two of Xavier's three offensive boards on the game, including a huge stickback of a Christon miss with 36 seconds left to restore a five-point lead for Xavier.
The less said about Jeff Robinson's 0/2/0 on 0-2/0-2/0-0 shooting in 9 foul-plagued minutes the better.
Isaiah Philmore came off the bench to go for 8/7/1 on 4-8/0-3/0-0 shooting. As probably the broadest one of the forwards that gets regular minutes for Xavier, his contribution in fighting Purdue's big bodies inside was absolutely vital today, especially with Robinson only available for brief stretches. Philmore continues to become more comfortable on the floor for the Muskies, and he is challenging for a starting spot.
Landen Amos doesn't often feature in our writeups here, but he played a huge part in the final possession of the game. With eleven seconds left and Xavier up four, Coach Mack sent the player he called "maybe the best athlete on our roster" into the game for defensive purposes. Amos slapped Ronnie Johnson's floater off the glass with authority, and then recovered to challenge DJ Byrd's three in the corner to such a degree that Byrd hit the back of the glass. Amos' game line was 0/0/0 on 0-0/0-0/0-0 shooting with one block in one minute, but he accepted the well-earned adulation of his teammates when he checked out.
Odds and ends:
-Brad Redford hit the big three from the corner, but he also had multiple two-point baskets in the game, ending with 7/1/0 on 3-4/1-2/0-0 shooting.
-Xavier had 10 assists on 23 baskets, which is less than ideal. Ball movement could still improve for the Muskies.
-Purdue was 15-23 from the line and missed two big front ends of one-and-one opportunities late. Between that and their 0-17 from deep, they left a lot of points on the floor today.
-According to the inimitable Ken Pomeroy, Purdue's 0-17 was only the 23rd time in the last ten years that a team has missed every three-point attempt in a game in which they shot at least 16 times from deep.
-Despite Purdue's dominance on the glass, their only double-digit rebounder was 6'2" guard Terone Johnson.
(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.)
-"Be a good day for Philmore to be strong."
-"Semaj doesn't look intimidated."
-"Rob should not be shooting threes! 2 of 13!"
-"We are taking it out in transition. We have to since we are so thin inside."
-"They are killing us on the glass. We should try 5 guards."
-"Zone - I like it. Box out."
-"Rob is out of control. Two seconds back in and he gets another foul."
-"Stay in a zone."
-After Martin fouled at the end of the first half: "Martin is just ridiculous."
-"That half was ugly."
-"Martin with another bonehead foul. And another one! Now go sit down. Sad"
-"It is a scrum under the bucket. At least two over the backs not called. We can't rebound with them laying on us!"
-"Stay in the zone. They can't shoot."
-"Purdue is beatable, but not playing like this. Rob is soft."
-"Red beats a man to the basket!!"
-"Stay zoned up, Purdue stinks at shooting."
-After Redford's three: "DOWNTOWN!"
-"Touched nothing but net. If he can get square, he is money. Reminds me of myself (in that we're both slow and white)."
-"Semaj hit him in the hands and Taylor went all Roberto Duran on it!"
-After Taylor's stickback: "Unreal. TT?"
-"How can you not get the rebound on a foul shot? Scary time."
-"AMOS WITH A MONSTER BLOCK!!"
-"We should join the Big Ten; we own these guys."
That's it from me. Swing back by tomorrow for Brad's narrative recap and the Sunday Conversation. Xavier is back in action against Vandy at 7:30pm on Thursday.