What happened: Xavier 55 - Rhode Island 42
I really want to write about Travis Taylor and the manful performance he put forth today, but to get there I have to lay the groundwork by writing about Semaj Christon first. With 16 minutes left in the game, Andre Malone had just hit a jumper to tie the game at 30. To that point, Christon was 2-8 from the floor, had 2 turnovers, and appeared to be trying to win the game by himself. From that point on, Xavier closed the game on a 25-12 run and Christon was 2-4/0-0/4-4 shooting and allowed Xavier's big men to take over the ball game. Christon's ending line of 16/7/1 on 4-12/0-0/8-8 (!) isn't superficially spectacular, but it was willingness to defer to the more effective facets of the offense - a marked difference from his performance against Dayton over the weekend - that allowed Xavier to pull away with this game. Good on Semaj for learning from his mistakes and applying it the very next game.
Anyway, back to Trav. Taylor had 13/17/0 and 2 steals on 4-9/0-0/5-7 shooting and was absolutely a bull in the middle. As the game went on, Taylor got more involved on the offensive end and more dominant on the glass. He had 13 of his 17 boards after the intermission, outrebounding the entire Rhode Island team by four all by himself in the second half. Xavier's defense was forcing misses from the Rams, but you can't zip 'em up without finishing possessions on the glass, and Taylor was doing that all by himself tonight.
Other than those two players, team defense was the star for Xavier tonight. From the 15:36 mark when Rhode Island took a 33-32 lead to when the starters came out with 32 seconds left, the Musketeers held URI to 6 points on 1-21/1-14/3-6 shooting with 2 TO. Some of that had to do with the Rams just missing shots, but it was a rare occasion on which URI got a clean look at the basket from anywhere. Xavier's defense helped on penetration, denied easy post entries, and recovered to shooters as well as they have for a long time, and a run away win on the road was the reward for their efforts.
A note needs to be made of Dee Davis' game tonight. His line of 3/2/4 with 4 turnovers on 1-3/0-0/1-1 shooting is not really that exciting, but his control of the game was exemplary for the Musketeers. When Semaj had to hit the bench in the second half due to foul trouble, it was Davis that set the tone of getting the ball inside. When Christon came back in, Davis kept forcing the post, Semaj followed suit, and X ran away with the game. Dee is still a little too eager to take risks with the ball at times, but he was mostly excellent and exactly when the Muskies needed tonight.
Odds and ends:
-Xavier was 1-2 from behind the arc in the second half.
-Brad Redford was 2-4 from deep tonight, picking his spots well and hitting a couple of big shots for X.
-Justin Martin had three blocks, including on monster swat off the glass when trailing a URI fast break in the second half.
-The Muskies had 7 assists on 18 field goals, which is not good. That usually indicates a stagnant half-court offense, which was exactly what X featured for most of the night.
-Having 14 turnovers the game before facing VCU is not an encouraging sign.
(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.)
-"Hope we can play this game without laying an egg."
-"Martin forces a turnover and then on the next possession gets a layup. Maybe he's up for a big game."
-"The lads appear a little more defensive-minded tonight. Good thing after that performance against Dayton."
-"At some point, the coach has to communicate to them to get the ball to Taylor."
-"I think Christon is 1-6 and he keeps shooting."
-"Out of bounds play for Redford was money."
-"We are so much bigger than them but we cannot get the ball inside. Coaching has to step in at some point."
-"Turnovers, missed free throws, missed shots; another ugly first half."
-"Now X is pounding it inside to JRob and Taylor."
-"We are in a dogfight with Rhode Island. This is embarrassing."
-"13 minutes to go and Taylor is playing like a man."
-"Martin has to get involved offensively."
-"Martin just had an amazing block after following the play down the floor."
-"Red drains one off a nice pass from Davis."
-"Okay, with six and a half minutes to go you gotta watch Redford box out this guy twice his size and get the rebound."
-"At the half, boards were 18-18; with 4:30 to got it's 39-26 in favor of us."
-"Taylor is owning these guys."
-"X has really stepped up the defense in the second half."
-"X beat them like a red-haired step child in the second half."
-"Taylor had his wisdom teeth taken out Monday and went for 13 and 17 on Wednesday. They should keep pulling teeth before every game the rest of the way."
That's it from me for now. Brad will be back later with his narrative recap, and we'll have everything you need to get yourself ready for VCU's visit to the Cintas Center on Saturday at 2pm.