It's hard to know exactly how to feel about this game. On the one hand, a win over a ranked team coming off of 18 straight victories should be cause for celebration. On the other hand, Xavier once again turned a double-digit second half lead into a late deficit, though this time they were able to regroup and rally for the victory. Brad rightly pointed out in his immediate recap that the game was once again a tale of two halves for X, so I won't belabor that point. The unforgiving light of the box score, however, shows just how much Xavier dodged a bullet with this win.
The game started off like a ball of fire, thanks in large part to Travis Taylor. Despite getting only ten minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, he posted 11/7/0 of his 18/10/1 in the first period. His first three buckets came off of two assists from Semaj and a long jumper, and he followed those up with two stickbacks from Christon misses. By the time six and a half minutes had come off the clock, Xavier's senior big man has 11 of the team's 14. His natural exuberance on the boards got the best of him, though, and he picked up a couple of quick fouls thereafter that consigned him to the bench until the second half.
Almost like a tag-team pair in wrestling, when Taylor switched off, Isaiah Philmore grew into the game. His first bucket came at the 10:22 mark of the first half, but he ended the period with 7/4/0. All of Philmore's rebounds were on the offensive end, and none of his buckets were assisted. His production was more a product of his own effort than any schematic emphasis on getting him the ball. Philmore finished the game with 15/6/0 on 6-11/0-0/3-4 shooting, including 5 offensive boards and a couple of blocked shots. Only one of his six baskets was assisted, a point to which we will return in a moment.
Semaj Christon put up a line of 13/5/5 with just one turnover, but it was marred by his 4-13/0-0/5-10 shooting performance. Christon likely understands he's the most talented player on the team and clearly aspires to lead on the floor, but too often that translates to looking to lead by scoring all the points. Sometimes that pans out well, like when he scored on three straight possessions - including breaking a tie twice - when Xavier had otherwise put it in reverse late in the second half. Aside from that vital burst, however, he was 1-10 from the floor, and his performance from the line once again isn't going to win him any awards.
Brad Redford played 32 very impressive minutes off the bench, tallying 10/3/1 with a steal and just one turnover on a shooting line of 3-9/2-6/2-2. More importantly, he handled the pressure very well - his one turnover was on an obvious foul on Memphis in the backcourt - and allowed Coach Mack to give Semaj a break from having to bring the ball up the court every time. Redford is more aggressive off the bounce when Dee is out, which can be both good (see previous) and bad (he was 1-3 from inside the arc and forced a couple of shots that probably didn't need taking). In a game when X needed a steady hand at the till with Dee down, Redford provided exactly that, and his three at the 1:52 mark gave Xavier the lead that they would carry the rest of the way.
Jeff Robinson shot 3-4/1-1/1-2 for his 8/6/1 with 2 steals and 2 blocks. All three of Jeff's made baskets were jumpers, which probably doesn't make sense considering that he stands 6'10", but he again spent most of his game hanging out in the mid-range. When he is hitting jumpers, he is a huge weapon for the Muskies, but I can't imagine there was a Xavier fan following the game whose insides didn't pucker when Robinson pulled the trigger on that late three.
Since I'm writing this the next morning instead of starting as soon as the buzzer sounded, I wanted to revisit the productivity of Xavier's post players. Taylor and Philmore combined for 33/16/1 on 13-25/0-0/7-11 shooting and were by and large the reason Xavier won instead of losing last night. Despite that, only one of their final 11 buckets came from an assist. An offensive inattention to the post has been a sticking point with us here at Banners all season, but a Twitter follower pointed out last night that it is more than bad pass selection that plagues X. Defenses are able to play behind Xavier's post players because teams can help from the perimeter with little to no consequence; Xavier simply doesn't have the shooters to punish help. Defenders then start pushing Xavier's bigs out until they have to start the possessions higher off the block than they'd like to. While I'd still like to see a more consistent effort to get the ball to the post, it is worth noting that Xavier's roster doesn't offer a lot of counter-punches once the opponent makes that initial adjustment. (H/T to MOR for the Twitter banter)
Odds and ends:
-Justin Martin went for 0/4/1 on 0-6/0-5/0-0 shooting with 2 turnovers. His ORtg was 8.
-Through the middle 20 minutes of the game, Memphis outscored Xavier 21-20. Ugly basketball.
-Erik Stenger had 4 offensive boards.
-Depending on which box score you use, X had either 9 or 10 TO. That's a really good performance, especially against Memphis, especially coming off that debacle against VCU.
-X had 9 assists on 23 buckets, which isn't good.
-The Muskies moved to 5-0 on the year in games in which JRob plays at least 31 minutes. Make of that what you will.
-Xavier's pitiable 15-27 (55.6%) was only eclipsed by Memphis' frankly shocking 6-18 (33.3%).
-Memphis shot 24-58/8-18/6-18 on the night; I hate to do it, but I have to place a good deal of the blame for that on Brad Redford. His effort was unquestionable, but he struggled to contain the Tigers' electric guards.
-"I don't know if I can take it."
-"NIT would be good at least. This is a rebuilding, growing year."
-Me: "That's an unusual level of positivity for you." Dad: "Love those young guys! I can really see the development in Semaj!"
-"I'm always a positive energy guy; silver-lining and all."
-Me: "Then someone has been taking your phone and texting with it during games." Dad: "That was another dad; an evil dad. I killed him."
-"Oh good, Memphis has won 18 in a row."
-"The lads are doing well early."
-"Mr. Positive. I won't even point out that Semaj just got used on defense."
-"My but Semaj has improved his FT shooting. Well done, sir."
-"Red barely touched it. Bummer, it's a two."
-"I think Stenger fouled Taylor there. Unfortunate."
-"Quite a story with Joe Hughes."
-"We are really rebounding, especially at the offensive end."
-"I truly wish that young Semaj would take better care of the ball."
-"It would benefit us nicely if Martin would make at least one of the several threes he has attempted. At least he's working hard."
-"Good to see Memphis still practices FT like they did with Calipari."
-"We are not used to facing a zone."
-"Philmore has come along nicely this season."
-"We're looking a bit confused. This looks familiar."
-"Attack the middle of a zone press!"
-"That's my Rob... weak pass, stupid foul on the shot."
-"Quit holding the ball, Semaj!"
-"Rob is lost."
-"Rob is totally lost."
-"Stenger is broke from the line."
-"We have lost that lead. Unreal."
-"Might want to step up on their shooters."
-"Get Taylor involved."
-"Rob with 3?"
-"Taylor needs to start on the block."
-"Big rebound for the [Frankenmuth] Flash."
-"Taylor is broke from the line; how can he be that bad."
-"Red on Jackson is not a good matchup."
-"What a butt-headed pass by Martin! Throwing it under the bucket!"
-"We did not deserve to win. Too many boneheaded plays."
As you can see, the Captain Sunshine act lasted about 25 minutes of basketball. That's it from me. If you haven't already, read Brad's recap from last night. It will change your life. Xavier has an extra day off to make sure Dee's pupils are dilating correctly, but they'll be back in action with a pivotal A-10 game against UMass on Saturday.