Yesterday wasn't ever likely to tell us a whole lot about this year's incarnation of the Xavier Musketeers and, lo and behold, it didn't. In a season that will feature a significant increase in the level of competition, the Runnin Bulldogs of Gardner Webb weren't the first step toward that. Instead, this was the customary season opening cupcake at home, and it all went pretty much according to plan.
The game started ugly. Not just ugly, actually, but hideous. After six combined turnovers and an 0-10 shooting start, Gardner-Webb finally broke the stalemate by scoring nearly four minutes into the game. Xavier didn't get on the board for almost two more minutes, by which time Semaj Christon's three made it a 7-3 game. By that point the Musketeers were already 0-2 from the line and well on their way to a truly heinous performance from the stripe.
At the ten minute mark of the first half Xavier held an 11-9 lead in a game that had not sparked to life in the slightest. While Xavier's athleticism and speed all over the court was telling, they could not make it pay offensively as disjointed play and lack of cohesiveness ruled the moment. With 7:11 to play, Xavier still had only stretched the lead to 19-14 and there was a palpable feeling of frustration surrounding the team and the arena.
From that point on, the Musketeers went on a 22-8 run to close out the half. In that run, Semaj Christon took his first real chance to exert his will on the game. In that span, the sophomore scored five points and chipped in five assists. His new backcourt mate, Brandon Randolph, contributed six points and two assists as their speed very suddenly cracked the Gardner Webb resistance. What had been a close, but by no means good, game devolved into a rout in the span of about five minutes. This was most symbolized by the Runnin Bulldogs shamobolic attempts to see out the end of the half. A poor inbound pass was stolen by Randolph, who was fouled and made one of two. The next inbound was also promptly thrown away and Randolph was again fouled, though this time he sank both.
That little spurt at the end of the first half meant that the second half was mostly an academic exercise. Xavier systematically tightened the vise on Gardner Webb, never really allowing them a run back into the game. The Bulldogs shot better (50% to 30%) in the second half, but only were allowed the same amount of shots, made only one three pointer, and snared only two offensive rebounds. In short, Xavier kept GW from doing the things you have to do to get back into a game.
As this wasn't the most riveting game to watch, we'll veer off the narrative and take a look at how the new guys integrated with the team.
Matt Stainbrook- Stain, as we currently very uncreatively call him, was as advertised. 13/12/1, only one turnover, and five offensive rebounds. All that tallies up to a 154 offensive rating. Matt was also very demonstrative throughout the game. Whether good, bad, or indifferent, it's clear the big man has an opinion on things. His interactions with Coach Mack were heated, but never seemed disrepectful. It will be interesting to see how he handles the big moments.
Brandon Randolph- I won't mention the line, you can get that in the Boxscore Breakdown anyway, because that doesn't encapsulate what Randolph was all about last night. Not since the last soccer game I watched have I seen someone run so much. Randolph doesn't walk anywhere, and he doesn't hesitate with the ball. That will lead to some mistakes, yes, but it's surely fun to watch when going well.
Jalen Reynolds- Reynolds didn't start, neither did Isaiah Philmore, because Erik Stenger did. Whether that was intended to send a message or because someone was dinged up I don't know. Either way, Reynolds played only 11 minutes and still managed to rack up a truly impressive four fouls in that time. Jalen looked like someone who hasn't played in awhile. He was quick, fast, and athletic, but also rusty. Still, the one lob he caught and perfunctorily finished will have people talking.
Myles Davis- All anyone wants to know about is the injury, but there isn't news on that likely to come out until Monday. Prior to that the freshman looked solid. 1-2 from deep, no turnovers, a steal and nine minutes that were very promising. As soon as we know the news on his knee, you'll know. Follow @BannersParkway for the very latest.
Kamall Richards- Richards played the very least of the new additions, logging only six minutes. In that time he made one really absurd turnover, grabbed a steal, two rebounds, and three points. It's clear that Richards is somewhat farther down the pecking order and, by last night's evidence, that's probably merited.
- How do the new guys settle in? Well. Frankly, they had to. Xavier didn't return enough talent that the new guys wouldn't go straight into rotation. They did and, for the most part, they delivered. Again though, it's hard to tell a lot when you are playing a Big South team.
- How does Semaj handle the new roster? Semaj once again led the team in scoring, and he only took seven shots to do it. He also tossed in four assists. That's the good news. The bad news is that he went 7-13 from the line and really took awhile to begin clicking with Brandon Randolph, who had seven assists in his own right. Christon is the big dog on this team still, but the gap isn't what it was.
- Can we learn much from this game? About Xavier? No. We all did learn that summer is over, fall is here, and basketball is finally back.
Tweet of the Game:
Xavier hasn't lost a season opener since falling to Southern Utah State in 1989.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) November 9, 2013