What happened: Tennessee 51 - Xavier 47
How big a lead how late in a game would Xavier have to hold before you felt good about it? Ten points with four minutes left? Fifteen points with thirty seconds on the clock? At this point, I'm not even sure how good I would feel about either of those. With fifteen minutes to go in today's game, Xavier was up ten. From there, it went about how you would suppose to get to the result in bold at the top of this story.
Before we get to any one player's performance, let me tell you what killed Xavier today. More than any other factor in today's box score, it was turnover that hamstrung the meager Musketeers offense. Tennessee took the 19 turnovers the Muskies offered them in all manner of ways - travelling, offensive fouls, throwing the ball to the wrong team, or simply not hanging on to it - and converted them into 19 points the other way. In a four-point game where both offenses are struggling (or both defenses are dominant, depending on how full you perceive the glass to be), 19 possessions crapped away for 19 opponent points are obviously killer.
If there was one player on Xavier whose fault this crap show wasn't, it was Dee Davis. Davis went for 7/3/6 with 3 steals and just 1 turnover. He also put up a 3-5/0-1/1-1 shooting line. I've been fairly effusive in my praise of Davis in the past, and he gave me no reason to change that tonight. There are things Dee Davis can't do - work the post or board most rides at an amusement park - but it was the limitations of his teammates that submarined Xavier tonight. When Davis was out for a break in the second half, Xavier saw their lead dwindle for eight to zero. By the time he got back in, the momentum of the game had inexorably swung away from Xavier.
Xavier finally got the ball to Travis Taylor on a regular basis, and - despite his best efforts - his output was something akin to underwhelming. Taylor kept putting himself in good positions to score, but it took him a 4-11/0-0/4-4 shooting line to get his 12/7/0 on the game, and he also added 3 turnovers. Furthermore, Taylor hit a flailing left-handed hook that looked somewhat unintentional and a 19-foot jumper with three seconds to go; a less favorable outcome on either of those (both of which were unlikely to go in) and his line would have been downright gruesome.
Semaj continued to struggle. He looked downright poor for stretches of the game as Tennessee played off him and dared him to shoot jumpers. When he was able to drive, he was always faced with a crowd. His final line of 5/0/1 came with 6 turnovers and 5 fouls. Christon was clearly frustrated on the game, shooting 1-9/0-1/3-4 and struggling to make any sort of impact on the game. At least he made some free throws, though.
Jeff Robinson didn't play.
Justin Martin hasn't been the same since his concussion. He led the team in rebounding en route to 6/12/1 with 2 steals and 4 turnovers. He also was poor from the floor, shooting 2-6/0-0/2-5. Martin was clearly under orders to get to the offensive glass whenever Skylar McBee was guarding him, and he was able to collect 5 offensive board. Unfortunately, Martin was unable - and looked fairly unwilling - to fill the offensive void left by Christon's performance.
Odds and ends:
-Brad Redford went 1-5 from deep on the night, falling to 40% from beyond the arc on the season.
-Erik Stenger had 6/8/0 on 3-5/0-0/0-0 shooting with a block. He got 20 minutes on the game, which is better than getting any from Robinson.
-James Farr also showed up, grabbing 5 minutes and shooting 0-3/0-1/0-0.
-Xavier held Jarnell Stokes to 6/3/1 on 2-3/0-0./2-2 shooting.
-Isaiah Philmore had 8/7/0 but needed 4-10/0-0/0-0 shooting to get there.
-A 42-28 advantage on the glass, 15 offensive rebounds, and 12 second-chance points weren't enough to get Xavier over the hump on the night.
(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.)
-"Tough call for Taylor."
-"Semaj with another TO."
-"We need more guards... some forwards... a center... and a new coach."
-After Redford's only basket: "Moneyball."
-"Davis out of control and it went in."
-"JRob: 'Did I see a squirrel?'"
-"Martin still committing stupid fouls."
-"TT with a good start to this half."
-"We need a point guard."
-When Taylor picked up his fourth foul with Xavier up three and 10:21 left: "Write it down; this one's over."
-"Now Semaj makes free throws and misses layups."
-"We are only eight players away from having a real team."
-"UT has awarded Semaj the game ball."
-"Three in a row, Mack has to go."
That's it from me. Brad's in a mood, so whatever he runs is likely to be vitriolic as well as informative. Xavier is back at it against Wake Forest on Wednesday.