What happened: Xavier 63 - Evansville 60
Because of what kind of game this was, I'm going to start with some negatives. Particularly, Justin Martin and Isaiah Philmore. Philmore and Martin are negative contributors for Xavier right now, and the comparative productivity of some of Xavier's other players just casts it in a more harsh light. Martin's case of frustratingly flickering talent has been hashed and rehased ad nauseum, but Philmore seemed to be coming on steadily at the end of last year. He hasn't been as effective on the glass or scoring this year, and he is a hole in the lineup right now. Myles Davis (more on him later) and James Farr (more on him later, too) both offer more for the Muskies right now, and a lineup featuring both of them isn't so farfetched that it wouldn't be worth running out there.
I obviously wrote that paragraph with about 4 minutes left in the game. Down the stretch, Martin was everywhere, getting two huge blocks, two steals, and making a brilliant cut off of Stainbrook in the post to score an open layup to put Xavier up with 39 seconds left. His final line of 5/4/1 with 4 steals and 2 blocks on 2-7/0-2/1-2 shooting is frustratingly underwhelming for a player with his talent, but there's a sense in which he took the game over down the stretch. His length on defense and the glass frustrated Evansville, and it was his play in the last minute that got Xavier over the line. Just when I think I'm out, he pulls me back in.
Philmore played 26 minutes and went for 2/3/0 with 3 TO on 1-5/0-0/0-0 shooting. I don't take back anything I wrote/thought about him.
Semaj sputtered on and off today, but he roared into life in the pivotal four-minute stretch in which Xavier cut the deficit from 13 at 48-35 to 3 at 54-51. He was relentless going to the rack and was more often rewarded with a trip to the line than an actual bucket. His shooting line of 3-14/0-0/13-17 bears witness to his efforts, and that performance from the line stands out compared to his early-season struggles. If he had shot the way he was early on, his line would have been much worse than the 19/2/2 with 2 steals that he ended up with, and Xavier would have lost. Semaj looked gassed at the end, but he played 37 minutes and was the spark Xavier needed to climb back into what appeared to be a lost game.
Dee Davis was what Xavier needs him to be again today. He put up a brilliantly Dee line of 10/1/3 with 2 steals and just 1 turnover on 4-7/2-5/0-0 shooting. When he is only shooting around half a dozen times a game and good for about 40% from deep, he is the perfect foil to everything else Xavier has going on. The Muskies need Dee to be a steady hand at the till, and that's exactly what he was tonight. After trying a couple of threes from a different zip code as X's offense stagnated early, he settled in, found his spots, and let the slashers run around him while he was the placid influence the team needed.
Still can't come to grips with Justin Martin right now.
Matt Stainbrook wasn't extremely efficient on offense, shooting 4-9/0-0/2-2, but he was a monster in the middle, putting up 10/15/3 with 2 blocks and zero turnovers in 28 minutes while trying to hold his own against Evansville's monstrous Egidiju Mockevicius. More importantly, he was able to absorb the double teams that the Purple Aces were throwing at him and keep his cool long enough to find an open teammate, most notably Justin Martin sprinting unguarded through the paint with 39 seconds left to give Xavier the lead they never lost.
Right before Semaj went on his run, I speculated on Twitter that Myles Davis maybe the the Xavier player with the uh... fortitude to bring the Muskies back into the game. The reason for that is that he simply doesn't visibly react to big moments in any negative way. He put up 9/1/1 with 1 steal and 1 turnover on 3-7/3-5/0-0 shooting. He sparked the team on a couple of different occasions with threes that you wouldn't necessarily advise a young man to take on, but he has massive confidence in his stroke and the results certainly back him up. Myles is now 25-54 (46.2%) from behind the arc this year.
Odds and ends:
-Xavier had 8 TO in the first half and 3 in the second.
-Xavier had a season-high 12 steals.
-The Muskies were 16-24 from the line, which isn't great but is an improvement.
-The Davis brothers were 5-10 from deep; the rest of the team was 0-6.
-Evansville outrebounded Xavier 38-35, but Xavier missed 37 shots to Evansville's 26, so the Aces had a lot more chances to get boards.
-Gruesome .362/.313/.667 shooting line for Xavier.
-Xavier went 6-18 from inside of six feet tonight.
Dad was at his granddaughter's birthday party during the game tonight. Afterwards, he hit me with this.
-"Martin was a beast the last 1:08! Always loved that guy."
-"He's a conundrum, that's why it is important that I continue in my unwavering support of this fine young man."
Whatever, Dad. Brad will post his recap later on here. Xavier is back in action Saturday against UC, which you already knew.