Sometimes basketball comes down to simple execution. When each team takes 31 free throws, it's a safe bet the winner will be the team that makes more. Predictably, that wasn't Xavier.
20-31. That's literally the entire story of this game in just four digits. Before you talk about the officiating, which was terrible, before you talk about the defense, also terrible, and before you talk about the game plan, terrible, you come to 20-31 from the free throw line. Xavier lost this game because they didn't execute at the free throw line and their opponent did. That's all.
Xavier came into this game fresh off of a win over Dayton in which they were at their relentless best. Almost immediately, the trip to Richmond was different. Xavier allowed the Spiders to come out and do exactly what it is they love to do, shoot three pointers. Four of Richmond's first seven buckets were of the three point variety and, were in not for the inspired efforts of Travis Taylor (24/8/0), the 20-9 deficit could have been a lot worse. The Musketeers, led by Taylor, responded with a 20-9 run of their own that deadlocked the game with 2:25 to play in the first half. By that point Taylor had scored 13 of his 15 first half points and raked in four rebounds. Taylor's dunk with 13 seconds to go gave Xavier a briefly held lead that turned in to a one point deficit as the teams jogged to the locker rooms for halftime.
Xavier's 34 points came mostly from their dominance in the paint. In fact 20 of those points came on dunks or layups alone. It was clear to everyone in the building that Richmond simply had no answer for Xavier's bigs. Isaiah Philmore (10/5/2) and Jeff Robinson (8/3/1) combined to add 12 points of their own in the opening period. Despite the fact that the most prolific three point shooting team in the conference had somehow surprised the Musketeers by shooting threes, the bigs had made certain that the deficit was far from insurmountable at the half.
The second half comprised, if you weren't cheering for either team, some of the most entertaining basketball of the season. 12 lead changes and three ties were the result of both teams digging in and scoring nearly at will. For the game, the Spiders shot 48% and the Musketeers manged to shoot 60%. Only the fact that Darien Brothers continued to heave (1-7 from deep) kept Richmond from posting an astronomically high shooting percentage as well. The Xavier team that defended so very well against Dayton was not to be found tonight. Richmond poured in 38 in the decisive second half and had assists on 13 of 20 made baskets. Xavier had no answers for the Spiders preferred method of driving the ball into the lane and then kicking to a shooter.
More frustratingly, Xavier didn't seem to try to answer. The Spiders took more than half of their shots from deep and, again, only an off night from Brothers kept them from completely burying the game. While credit must be given to Dee Davis (8/2/2) for the job he did on one of the best shooters in the nation, it simply boggles the mind that no adjustment was ever made. Trip after trip either Cedrick Lindsey or Greg Robbins got the ball in the lane and kicked to shooters spotting up outside. Still, the three point barrage wasn't as costly as it could have been. The Spiders couldn't convert on open looks in the second half and Xavier refused to just go away.
Travis Taylor headed to half time with 15 points. With 11:35 to play in the game, he finally added number 16. Richmond attacked Taylor with double teams and forced him to pass out and re-post. As has been the frustrating norm this season, Taylor rarely saw the ball after the original post feed and spent most of the second half hunting for scraps around the rim. Travis made two field goals in the second half, the second pushing Xavier ahead 54-52 with 6:51 to play. A Dee Davis three with 5:36 to play broke another tie. That three pointer was the last field goal Xavier would manage until another Davis three with ten seconds to play.
During that drought, Richmond started to put the game away from the line. A Greg Robbins three from a catch and shoot set up by a Lindsey drive gave Richmond the lead for good with 3:20 to play. After that the Spiders made 13 free throws to ice the game. While Xavier's 8-11 in that span wasn't bad, it wasn't good enough to make up for the 12-20 they were to that point. Especially vital were two Semaj Christon (15/3/1) misses with 50 seconds to play. trailing by only two at that point, Xavier had managed a stop and gotten the ball down the court in a hurry. Unfortunately, Christon missed both and Xavier was forced to foul and hope Richmond missed. Dee Davis' three with ten ticks left only served as a vehicle to the tragicomic sight of Travis Taylor trying to miss free throws and making them instead. At the other end, Richmond tried and succeeded at making theirs. 20-31 vs. 25-31. That's it and that's all.
- Who will play? Isaiah Philmore played for Xavier and followed up his shortened Dayton game with another solid performance. After his goose egg against St. Joe's, Isaiah is 8-8 from the floor. His returned, though, was overshadowed by that of Kendall Anthony for Richmond. Anthony went 5-8 from the floor on his way to 16 points. Either Xavier wasn't expecting him to play or simply couldn't see the diminutive guard, because he came out and did the exact same thing he always does. Heave from deep.
- Is Dee Davis back? 8/2/2 isn't world beating, but Davis did a solid job defensively in helping hold Darien Brothers to 2-9 from the floor. Dee still turned the ball over too many times, though one of his three turnovers is partially due an uncalled Greg Robbins cross check. Davis looked better for the second game in a row.
- Can Xavier dominate the glass again? Somehow, no. The Musketeers 25-21 margin on the glass was due partially to long rebounds from the constant three point shooting, and partially to not exhibiting the same effort they did against Dayton. After absolutely dominating the conference's best rebounding team, Xavier was barely able to fight one of the league's worst rebounding teams to a draw. The inconsistency of this squad defies explanation.
The officiating in this game was dreadful. No, it was not the refs fault that Xavier lost, but blowing an obvious travel and then an even more obvious double dribble call late in the game certainly didn't help. No one expects officials to be perfect, but making some effort to be in the right position rather than getting lazy late in the game would probably be appreciated. The fact that games played by remarkably fit college age athletes are occasionally impacted by the fitness of middle aged men is a bit odd.
Tweet(s) of the game:
I found our new free throw strategy. Miss on purpose. Can't get any worse.— golfitup (@muskiefan3) February 3, 2013
Oh, but it did.
Twice, Xavier tried to miss a free throws after being fouled down three. Twice, they made it by accident.— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) February 3, 2013
Next game: @Duquesne, Sat, Feb 9th