USA TODAY Sports
Poor free throw shooting, a thin backcourt, and one run out of the halftime break doomed the underdog Muskies against their crosstown rivals.
What happened: Cincinnati 60 - Xavier 45
Take a deep breath. It's never fun to lose the Shootout, but this was always going to be an uphill battle for Xavier. The Musketeers were going to have to play a very good game to win this one, and they definitely didn't. The Musketeers shot poorly, especially from behind the arc and at the line, finishing 20-53/2-13/3-14 as a team. If Xavier had shot up to their season averages from the line, they would have been right in this game, and a couple of made threes from there flips the outcome. They didn't, though, and they paid the price with a loss.
The game was really lost in the first 6:30 out of the half. After leading 24-22 at the break, the Muskies came out of the locker room in a manner that suggested they were not expecting Cincinnati to pressure the ball in the second half. Xavier turned the ball over four times in their first six possessions and the Bearcats opened with 17-4 run to functionally bury the game. Other than that run, Xavier was neck-and-neck with Cincinnati on the game. The run happened, though, and Xavier paid the price with a loss.
Before we get further into the bad news, the play of Travis Taylor bears mention. He was all over the paint, especially in the first half, ending the game with 12/10/0 on 6-10/0-0/0-3 shooting. Taylor showed a diverse post game and a lot of effort on the glass at both ends against a big and deep Cincinnati team. He was hands-down the best thing Xavier had going today, calling to mind Jamel McLean's effort in the 2010-2011 Crosstown Shootout loss.
Something is going on with both Semaj Christon's and Dee Davis' health. Semaj was felled by cramps early in the second half and Dee was clearly in pain for most of the same half. Davis made a game effort at staying out there, and his toughness in collecting 7/0/5 on 3-6/1-3/0-0 in 28 minutes against a withering press. Christon had 6/0/4 on 3-9/0-2/0-4 and was limited to 24 minutes - and only 6 in the second half - due to cramps.
Brad and I discussed in the Sunday Conversation a few weeks back about the team's need for a second-best player. Justin Martin was a candidate for that role, but he was not the answer tonight. Even when not being limited due to stupid fouls - he picked up two in less than four minutes in the first half and then grabbed his fourth with more than 12 minutes on the clock in the second - he did not look to assert himself on the offensive end. With the team floundering, Davis limping, and Christon out, Martin shot just three times on the game. Xavier needed him to want a piece of the game, and he didn't appear to.
There were some obvious things that Xavier was going to struggle with coming into this game, and they struggled with all of them. The Musketeers looked to be overmatched on the glass on paper, and Cinci indeed clobbered Xavier on the glass, grabbing 20 offensive rebounds. UC thrives on forcing turnovers and scoring off of them, and they had 19 points off of 15 Xavier turnovers.
The rest is minutiae. Brad Redford - in a game in which Xavier badly needed him to hit open threes - shot 2-10/1-8/1-2 on the game. Jeff Robinson hit a jumper early and then largely disappeared until the game was done and dusted, finishing with 6/3/1 on 3-4/0-0/0-0 in 21 minutes. Isaiah Philmore didn't score in the first half, but he finished with 8/6/2 and had 3 offensive boards. James Farr played a minute and grabbed a rebound and a foul.
Odds and ends:
-Sean Kilpatrick had 25 points, but it took him a staggering 10-27/2-10/3-5 shooting to get there. Not an impressive showing.
-Chiekh Mbodj had four blocks and didn't stomp anyone.
-Xavier's shallow bench really hurt them tonight, as they couldn't keep up with UC's pace.
-It all went wrong for X in the second half.
(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.)
-"Sweet play by Davis stealing the ball and leading the break."
-"Davis is really active on the defensive end."
-"Cincinnati just had 5 offensive rebounds in 1 possession."
-"Redford on Cashmere Wright is not a good matchup for X."
-"Get Robinson out of there; we're better off playing with four."
-"Redford from the third row!"
-"We need to build a lead since they can't hit a thing."
-"Man, we gotta get better at free throw shooting."
-"Not good, we should be up by a dozen."
-"Butt ugly start to the second half."
-"Write it down, this one is over. 18:49 left."
-"Davis is in a coma."
-"We are wilting under the pressure."
-"Martin with four fouls, that is not good."
-"Have to get someone to the middle of the floor against the press."
-"Xavier can't match Cincinnati's intensity."
-"Well good, get the ball to Robinson 25 feet from the basket."
-"Davis should just lay down so they have to take him out."
-"The announcer just said Robinson is a legitimately nice kid. That's like telling your buddy the blind date you set him up for has a great personality."
-"Redford and Martin are our guards right now. Not their fault; that shouldn't be their role."
-"Taylor is at least still trying."
-"Good night. I'm glad it's over."
Well, that's it from me. Keep an eye out for Brad's full recap tomorrow morning. Xavier will be back in action against Wofford at 2pm on Saturday at Cintas.