What happened: Dayton 70 - Xavier 59
In a game that likely represented Xavier's best chance to put themselves into position to win ten conference games and grab a first-round bye in the A-10 tournament, the Muskies instead came out flat and never got all the way back into the game. Travis Taylor scored to make it 2-0 and then Dayton promptly scored the next 10. Taylor scored again to stop the run, making him 2-2 from the floor on the day and cutting the deficit to 6.
You would think that a player who was perfect from the floor and had scored all of his team's points in the first four minutes would be the focal point of the offense going forward. Instead, Taylor's touches were few and far between during the rest of the game, and he finished with 10/6/2 on 4-4/0-0/2-4 shooting. Dayton was clearly focused on cutting off Taylor's easy looks, but Xavier seemed equally focused on making that job easy. On possessions when Taylor got the ball on the post and kicked out, X rarely looked back into him. For this team to beat some of the smaller, quicker teams on the upcoming schedule (VCU leaps to mind), they have to be able to repost Taylor and reward him for his patience. Today, that was far from the case.
Instead, Semaj - who I should say that we both still think is obviously going to be a monster for Xavier before it's all said and done - got caught up in hero ball. Christon was fairly bad today, putting up 17/3/2 on 5-18/0-2/7-10 with 5 turnovers. He was good from the line, so there's that. With Taylor not missing from the floor, though, and Isaiah Philmore (see below) playing well, Christon needed to recognize that the possessions being used in the post were far more effective than the ones he spent trying to get to the tin.
While we're on negative notes about guards, Dee Davis wasn't much better than Semaj today. He had 8/0/1 with 3 turnovers on 3-8/1-4/1-2 shooting. He also picked up four "fouls" (see below) and had trouble keeping Dayton's guards out of the paint. Neither of Xavier's starting guards played up to their standards today, and it took them too long to recognize it.
The Muskies trailed all game after their 2-0 start, but they had a chance to get back into the game. With the game at 40-36 Xavier stopped Dayton on four straight trips down the floor. X countered with a missed three from Brad Redford, back-to-back TO by Dee Davis (the second of which came when Jeff Robinson cut through the lane wide open and let the pass hit him in both hands before skipping by), and 1-2 from the line by Semaj. The teams then traded baskets before Dayton embarked on a 11-2 run the effectively ended the game as a contest.
Isaiah Philmore was a bright spot for X, with a line of 12/3/0 on 4-6/0-0/4-5 shooting and solid if not spectacular work on the defensive end. Philmore showed off his strength in the post, but he also demonstrated nice touch in knocking down a couple of mid-range jumpers when the defense turned him back. Like Taylor, he was under-utilized early before the game got out of reach late.
The hallmark of good officiating is enforcing the rules as written over the course of the entire game. The opposite of that is not necessarily enforcing other rules consistently, as at least the teams can adjust to that. Instead the officials for today's game (including Ed Hightower, who honestly believes the crowd showed up to watch him officiate) made calls seemingly at random. It took the crew less than 2:30 to call the first six fouls of the game, then they went nearly 4 minutes without calling a single infraction. The game then devolved into something of a scrum underneath the basket, but touch fouls on the perimeter and off the ball were still getting called... sometimes. There was simply no rhyme or reason to anything that was called. I'm not saying Xavier got hosed by the officiating crew - two of the early calls were on Dayton's Devon Scott, and by the end of the game both coaching staffs were befuddled by the zebras - but that they were bad. Bad both ways, and just bad. With a thin bench and a poor free throw shooting team, this was never going to work in Xavier's favor.
Odds and ends:
-Jeff Robinson had ten boards but went 0-4 from the floor and got regularly beaten like a rented mule on defense.
-Redford was a non-factor at 1-2/1-2/0-0. Xavier needs to find a way to get him a chance to impact the flow of the game.
-Nobody loves Matt Derenbecker.
-Justin Martin had 7 on 2-7/1-2/2-2 shooting and seemed to be on the officials' radar all night.
-Erik Stenger got his only points of the game on a monster stickback dunk that cut the lead back to three and briefly made it look like Xavier was going to hang in there.
-After splitting the boards at 28-28, Xavier still hasn't been outrebounded in conference play.
(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.)
-"My man Rob won the tip."
-"Taylor gets his first bucket by magic."
-"We are standing around watching Semaj dribble... and no defense."
-"Much as feared, it is an early blowout."
-"We are giving up nothing but layups."
-"Stinking Robinson is lost. Just gave up another layup and a foul."
-"We are awful at both ends; this is hard to watch."
-"Semaj with two early buckets."
-"Robinson from UD is killing us, but not as badly as Robinson from Xavier."
-"Philmore is the only thing keeping us in this game."
-"Christon is 4-14 and Taylor can't get a touch. Down 12."
-"Davis is a short JRob today."
-"11. Looked much worse. Ugly ball from start to finish today."
That's it from me. Brad will post his narrative recap later on this evening, and we'll have the Conversation for you tomorrow afternoon. Xavier will be back in action with their road trip to URI on Wednesday; that game is now an absolutely must-win.