What happened: Xavier 70 - La Salle 63
Ten minutes into the game, things were looking grim. Xavier was down 20-9, looking fairly incompetent on both ends of the court, and looking fairly overmatched. Worse yet, the team's intensity couldn't have been any more non-existent if it were dating Manti T'eo. Then, just like that, Xavier hit the big red "zip'em up" button and choked La Salle out of the game. With 10:07 left in the first half, Ramon Galloway hit a long three to give La Salle their 20th point of the game. In the next 15:44 of game time, the Explorers would score just 11 points on 3-17/0-4/5-10 shooting and 8 turnovers. When a vital (and aren't they all) conference game appeared to be on the verge of slipping away, Xavier turned up the defensive intensity to take control of the game.
Of course, all the defense in the world doesn't win you games if you can't score the basketball, which was likely what Chris Mack was thinking when he recruited Semaj Christon. Christon was his irrepressible self again today, with his 18/2/5 line coming on 8-11/0-1/2-3 shooting and only marred by six (!) turnovers. Christon showed a nice array of moves on the perimeter to get to the basket, and he finished through a lot of uncalled contact when he got there. The turnovers are obviously troubling, and he still relies heavily on his right hand, but that's being fairly hard on a borderline dominant freshman guard.
Your friend and mine Dee Davis made his return to active duty today, accumulating 6/1/7 on 2-3/0-1/2-4 shooting with a steal and just one turnover. With La Salle rather successfully pressuring Semaj Christon, Dee was a steady hand at the till for the Muskies. He was smooth in his ball distribution and generally looked better for having had a couple of game to rest himself. If Xavier can continue playing in such a way that Dee on has to shoot three times, they will be doing quite well for themselves. The fact that Dee only got 23 minutes of playing time speaks both to the difficulty of getting back up to game speed after a lay off (he picked up fouls at a rate not normally associated with his style of play) and the expanded role of...
Brad Redford! Redford is no longer just a shooter for Xavier, though his 3-7/3-7/4-4 shooting line was more than welcome today. Every day is another day removed from fairly dramatic knee surgery for the young man, and his game is growing in leaps and bounds as he gets more healthy reps under his belt. His line of 13/0/0 isn't exactly a picture of on-court versatility, but he also picked up his first block in three years and nine days, perhaps horning in on Landen Amos' turf as a defensive menace. Redford doesn't handle the ball as much as Davis or Christon, but his having only one turnover is still a good sign for Xavier.
Xavier's starting forwards were successful on both ends of the court, excepting for a moment Justin Martin's lackluster 4/1/0 on 1-4/0-2/2-2 shooting. Jeff Robinson started slowly but did the "I Believe in Jeff Robinson" movement a great sevice by bursting to life late in the first half and finishing the game with 10/6/0 plus 3 blocks, courtesy of a 5-7/0-0/0-0 shooting line. Jeff spent most of his time hanging around the bucket on offense, with his points coming on four dunks and a layup. Robinson has shown the ability to hit jumpers from time to time, but a guy who is 6'10" and can jump like he does can make easy money from two feet and in.
Travis Taylor led X in rebounding for the 12th time this year, finishing with a game line of 9/12/2 with a steal and 3 blocks. He would have had another double-double, but his shooting touch let him down to the tune of 3-6/0-0/3-9 shooting. All those missed free throws may have come back to haunt Xavier on another day, but the Muskies had enough of a coushion that they were a statistical annoyance rather than a crippling flaw. He was able to use his quickness on the post to help get Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright - the only two big men on the La Salle roster - into foul trouble.
It would be a shame to end this article without mentioning that Landen Amos is a bad man. Ramon Galloway came into the game as an efficient and prolific scorer, and it looked early on like he was going to kill Xavier. The Amos came into the game and clearly flustered Galloway. He still ended with 15 points, but it took him a shooting line of 5-16/3-7/2-3 to get there, and he turned the ball over 5 times. Obviously, that isn't all owing to Amos' abilities, but he has shown himself to be a lockdown defender of the highest caliber. A quick look at the roster shows that Xavier still has two scholarships unused for next season. If Coach Mack and the staff do not fill those, it might be a nice gesture to pay Amos' way for his senior season.
Tweet of the Game:
@bannersparkway Amos needs to stop treating the ball like it's a piece of decaying uranium.— Matthew Malone (@Ledcow) January 19, 2013
Odds and ends:
-Xavier made their last 6 free throws to get up to a still profoundly awful 15-26 (57.7%) from the line. Those are points this team isn't going to want to throw away in the upcoming six weeks or so.
-The Muskies outscored La Salle 61-34 from the point at which La Salle went up 20-6 to the point at which Coach Mack emptied the bench. Don't let the final score fool you; this was a butt-kicking.
-X recorded 14 assists on 26 made baskets, which is a slight improvement in that department.
-Xavier is 7-0 this season when Brad Redford connects on at least 3 three-pointers.
-X's 10 steals and 9 blocks were both season highs.
Dad was at a family funeral today, so he was unable to watch the game live. This game was only shown on Time Warner, so he was unable to record it. Before you pass along condolences, consider that his first words to me when he called were that he wasn't able to listen online but was following the gamecast on his phone during the service. Clearly he wasn't that close to the decedent. Anyway, here's are his impressions of the game.
-"Make sure the Frankenmuth Flamethrower features in your writeup. We were in trouble until he hit that first three, and he had like eight points in the rally."
-"There's no reason Jeff Robinson should ever leave the lane on offense, except for avoding three-second violations."
-"This team has to play defense. They score more when they're getting stops; it all starts on that end."
-"I don't want to get cocky after a win, but what the heck: bring on Wofford."
-"Just wanted to make sure you had some of my thoughts; I know the people are clamoring for it." Me (drily): "Okay, Dad." Dad: "Whatever, I'm a household name." Me: "On my site; you're no more of a household name than I am." Dad: "Okay, go to any household and tell me if you hear more people talking about 'Joel' or talking about 'Dad.'" Me: *struggling for a reply* Dad (beside himself with triumph): "Love you boy, bye." *hangs up*
That's it from me. Because we both have a long weekend thanks to Dr. King, Brad and I will run the Sunday Conversation on MLK Day. Xavier will be back in action on Wednesday at 7:30pm at Charlotte. We'll have all the coverage you could need - and quite possibly more - right here.