This was a huge game for both teams involved. Neither team has much beyond a fading hope at an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, making securing one of the first-round byes in the A-10 tourney of utmost importance. Xavier came in on the back of a two-loss week that deflated much of the good feeling surrounding this team. Dayton, on the other hand, had won two straight, and was travelling down 75 to face an undermanned and inconsistent Muskie squad that gave them their best chance in years to break their massive losing streak against X. Instead, in this pivotal A-10 contest, Xavier simply beats the brakes off of Dayton, sending them home losers for the sixth president in a row.
The score doesn't reflect domination, but the "want-to" statistical categories show that X simply outmanned Dayton last night. Xavier scored 35 second-chance points to Dayton's 10. They outscored UD 42-26 in the paint. Dayton had 6 - six! - total rebounds in the second half to Xavier's 17. Nowhere was the team's all-out effort more evident than the last minute of the game. After Jalen Robinson scored what would be UD's final points to put them up one, Semaj Christon hit a tough jumper to put Xavier back on top. Down at the other end, Dee Davis put the handcuffs on Kevin Dillard, forcing him into his eighth missed two-point attempt on the night. On the ensuing free throws, Xavier twice missed the front end of 1-and-1 opportunities, only to beat Dayton to secure the rebound and ultimately the game. We've spent a lot of time dissecting the faults of this undermanned Xavier team, but, to a man, heart was not one of them against Dayton.
Pacing was always going to be an issue in this game, but Xavier did an excellent job in holding the tempo of the game down en route to a 53-possession contest. A huge portion of the credit for this goes to the Muskies' work on the offensive glass, as Dayton simply couldn't get enough boards to get out and go the other way. UD only had 10 fast-break points, 8 of which came in the first half.
Dee Davis played the kind of game Xavier fans expect to see out of him when he's going well tonight. He didn't need a lot of shots, but he got to his 14/2/3 line on 4-6/2-3/4-6 shooting, picking up a steal and three turnovers along the way. With Dayton's defensive plan keying on doubling Taylor on the post and pressuring Semaj on the perimeter, Davis was at his savvy best in finding and exploiting the space on the floor. Xavier doesn't need 14 from him every night, but the poise and timely baskets he provided against Dayton certainly were welcome.
Good Jeff Robinson came back to the tune of 12/5/1 on 6-12/0-0/0-0 shooting and only one turnover. Of his 5 boards, 4 came on the offensive end, including a massive tip dunk early in the game that hinted at the dominance Xavier would enjoy on the glass throughout the night. It's also worth noting that four of his six made baskets happened at the rim on layups or dunks. I've long since given up trying to figure Robinson out, but I still believe that his performance is the key to this team's future. When he uses his tools to good enough effect to be productive and force the other team to respect him, good things happen.
Travis Taylor and Isaiah Philmore were both effective in the middle as well for Xavier. Taylor did an excellent job of staying patient on offense instead of trying to force through the double team Dayton was showing him, and Xavier's ball movement and offense were the better for it. He ended the game with 8/11/2 plus a steal and a block on 4-7/0-0/0-1 shooting. His rebounding total is made all the more impressive when you consider that he came within two boards of outrebounding UD's entire starting lineup by himself. Philmore, meanwhile, finally showed that he can put his bulk to good use, bullying Dayton's post players on his way to 8/4/0 on 4-4/0-0/0-2 shooting. He had buckets from assists by Dee and Trav, but it was his two offensive boards and stick backs where he simply used what his mama gave him to make enough space to secure the ball and score. He left the game midway through the second half with an ankle injury and is currently day-to-day.
Last year, it was the inimitable Tu Holloway who outplayed Kevin Dillard to give Xavier the win in this game. Yesterday, Semaj wasn't brilliantly efficient in using 6-14/0-0/1-2 to get his 13/2/3 with 2 steals, but with a minute on the clock and Xavier needing a bucket, there was no doubt where the ball was going to end up. With the game on the line, Xavier's freshman stepped up and proved he could do what Dayton's fifth-year senior couldn't: make the biggest shot of the game over tough defense.
The sun rises in the east. People hate tax season. Old folks complain about how easy the younger generation has it. Xavier has tougher guards than UD. Dayton doesn't win in Cincinnati. Some things just never change.
Odds and ends:
-Justin Martin had 8 and 5 and was 3-5 from inside the arc. Still needs to get that three-point stroke working, but each of his three misses from deep was shot with a lot of confidence.
-Xavier's performance from the line - 7-13 tonight - remains troublesome at best.
-Dayton came into the game with the best OReb% and DReb% in the league, and Xavier just crushed them on the glass.
-Xavier only had 10 assists on 28 buckets, which isn't good. Take away Xavier's 8 buckets on stick backs, though, and they had 10 assists on 20 buckets... which still isn't very good.
-Justin Martin was the only Muskie with more than one foul.
-"Taylor's first shot is blocked. Don't tell me we're going to do that again."
-"Take Martin out until he quits shooting the three."
-"This Robinson kid from Dayton is butt ugly."
-"We need to keep the pace at our style."
-"Taylor just threw a nice pass to Philmore, who wasn't even looking."
-"Two straight TO turn into four points for them. Whoops, three straight."
-"Don't bring that weak stuff into JRob's house!"
-"So-so first half."
-"Need some D. Or a big Red bomb!"
-"What a feed from Red to Rob."
-"X must have practiced the bounce pass this week."
-"GET MARTIN OUT!!! Another three try, really?"
-"Good thing we are rebounding."
-"This game is getting really physical."
-"Dante looking stylish."
-"Man, this is painful. Got to play defense. One stop will do it."
-After Taylor's missed front end: "Wow. Better lucky than good."
-After Dee's missed front end: "Man, this is sad. MAKE A STINKING FREE THROW!"
-"Why was Rob not out there on [Derenbecker's final three-point attempt]? Ah, what am I saying? It's Rob."
-After Martin iced the game from the line: "JMart: always loved that guy!"
-"Wow, what a game. Always good to beat UD."
Musketeers Keep Streak Alive, Beat Dayton At Home (via xaviermusketeers)
That's it from me, ladies and gents. If you haven't already read Brad's excellent recap, do yourself a favor and read it here. Xavier is back in action at 6pm this Saturday at Richmond. We'll have all the coverage you could ever possibly hope for.