After being 2-6 from the floor at the half, Brian Conklin went 5-9 in the second half to end the game having eviscerated Xavier to the tune of 23/6/2 on 7-14/0-0/9-10. That's a microcosm of what went wrong tonight for Xavier. After doing everything right in the first half, X did nothing right in the second. Saint Louis went on a 24-3 run to begin the second half and Xavier simply didn't have any answers. A chance to add a signature win was well within Xavier's grasp after 20 minutes; instead, the Musketeers simply summed up their entire season with one 20-minute stretch.
I'm going to try to compose myself for a moment before writing the rest of this.
Dez Wells also came to play tonight. In the first half, Xavier went small because of foul trouble to the bigs, and Wells thrived to the tune of 12/6/1 on 5-7/2-2/0-0 shooting. He disappeared in the second half, however, as Saint Louis took over, and he shot 0-2/0-0/1-2 in the second stanza to end up with 13/10/1 on the night. Wells can hardly be blamed in a sense; he thrives on the full court game that allows him to score, and that didn't happen in the second half. Xavier uses defensive stops to begin the transition game, and they didn't get nearly enough of them in the second period.
Saint Louis shot 12-17/4-9/13-15 and beat Xavier 19-14 on the boards in the second half after going into the break at 10-30/2-12/7-9 and down 21-11 on the glass. They also forced seven turnovers while only committing three of their own. Meanwhile, they ratched up the pressure on Xavier, forcing X into 7-25/1-6/5-9 after the break. That's just awful. The Musketeers absolutely needed to be able to get something going in the second half, and they had nowhere to turn. Big Kenny was 4-6 shooting in the second half; the rest of the team was 3-19. Consider also that Kenny's first shot in the second half came with 18:06 to play and his second one was at the 9:18 mark. In the time between those shots, Saint Louis went on a 22-2 run. Xavier's senior big man showed up for the team today, but they didn't recognize it until it was too late.
I could go on for another dozen paragraphs, but I think I'll just jump to the odds and ends.
Odds and ends:
-I posted the first half box score above (click to enlarge); it helps to remember the good times.
-Tu had 4/4/4 on 1-6/0-3/2-2 shooting.
-I know Brad Redford had a couple of bad TO early on, but where was he when X needed the 3 late? Coach Mack seems to love burying him at the time when his one elite skill is needed the most. Dee Davis took a 3 with less than two minutes left.
-Walker, Taylor, and Robinson combined for 10/10/4 on 4-13/0-0/2-5 shooting in 54 minutes. Xavier continues to get nothing from the four position.
-I haven't scanned the bubble tonight, but I'm pretty sure it's win the A-10 Tournament or play in the NIT for Xavier.
(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.)
-"Don't bring that in Kenny's house!"
-"Walk is involved on O. Got to keep it up."
-"Come on, Red."
-"You can't put Rob in or ask Taylor to shoot jumpers."
-"K with a jumper... money."
-After Kenny's second: "Not good; we have no size.
-"Wells coast to coast!"
-"Whistle is gonna hurt us."
-"Stay in the zone."
-"Junior high call. Wells was in the air and had no chance to land!"
-"We are hurrying our shots."
-"Rob, what a moron! He jumped and tried to block the heave."
-"Skip halftime, just keep playing. Pretty solid 20 minutes."
-"Here we go again. Too many TO!"
-"Season's on the line here. Do they know that?"
-"We are done. No adjustment at the half."
-"Conklin is killing us."
-"Walk has to shoot it the paint; they won't move if he doesn't."
-"Where is our senior leadership? I miss Dante."
-After Mack's tech: "You can't lead if you can't control yourself."
-"I'm gonna go iron my clothes for tomorrow."
-"We were really outcoached. R M made adjustments, Mack didn't."
That's that. With a season-salvaging win there for the taking, Xavier completely melted down. When I last contacted Brad, he was somewhere between irate and despondent. Ever the consummate professional, however, I feel confident that he'll have his narrative recap up tomorrow. Xavier plays next at Cintas versus Charlotte on Saturday.