What happened: Xavier 84 - DePaul 74
This may be the worst ten-point win in the program's history. Xavier led 50-32 at the half and went completely into cruise control for the second half. The team had 21 turnovers in the game, 13 of which came in the second half. In the first, Xavier went on a run once they stopped passing to the wrong team. That run never came after the break and instead Xavier dragged home a 10-point win. It was a team effort: Semaj had 5 TO, Dee, Philmore, and Stainbrook each had 4, JMart had 3 and Randolph had 1. Vexingly, every time Xavier threatened to bury the game, a series of turnovers would short-circuit the offense and keep DePaul from falling out of the game.
Okay, let's set that aside for a minute.
DePaul didn't have an answer for Semaj, who put up 27/1/1 with a steal on 9-12/0-0/9-11 shooting. Semaj's free throw woes are such a thing of the past that Coach Mack had him shoot the free throws on both a technical and a flagrant foul that Xavier drew. He was consistently able to find space in the DePaul defense whether attacking in transition, beating a man, or moving without the ball against the zone. Aside from his Allan Houston (look him up, younger fans) like contributions other than scoring and the turnover problem, this was another spectacularly efficient game from a player who is starting to make that seem routine.
Justin Martin... I don't know. On the one hand, how can you argue with 18/7/0 with 2 steals on 4-6/3-5/7-9 shooting? On the other hand, Martin was 4-6 from the floor with 1:25 left in the first half and then took a 17-minute hiatus from accumulating any sort of offensive statistics before getting to the line on two occasions late in the game. On the whole, it was JMart; he's there, then he's gone, then he pops back up again. He can somehow put up big numbers without ever making you feel comfortable counting on him for anything. He also contributed to Xavier's struggles against the press, throwing lazy passes almost by rote on a couple of occasions that were all too easy to steal and lay in for DePaul.
Again ignoring the turnover column, Isaiah Philmore came to play today. His 13/7/0 came on 5-8/0-0/3-4 shooting, and he was Xavier's leading scorer and rebounder in the second half with 11 and 5 during a period where few other players on the team could make things happen. As is his wont, he was the Musketeers' most effective presence on the offensive glass, and he was generally in there mixing things up given the opportunity. Foul trouble limited him to just 5 first-half minutes, so you can't help but wonder what the game would have looked like if he had been able to play the whole way.
I've been trying to keep from dwelling on turnovers because it was basically the story of the first paragraph, but I feel like I have to make mention of them when discussing your friend and mine Dee Davis. His line of 6/3/6 with 2 steals on 3-3/0-0/0-0 shooting was superficially just about everything we want from him. His main job, though, is to keep the ball moving to the right people, and the right person is almost by definition never a member of the other team. Dee was quietly effective as always when Xavier held onto the ball, but his 4 turnovers added a regrettable aftertaste to what should have otherwise been an admirable effort for him.
Brandon Randolph's contributions bear mention here. We haven't spent much time talking about him lately because he frankly hasn't been doing very much, but Coach Mack called on him to help stabilize the situation as Dee Davis struggled with foul trouble and the Muskies struggled with the press. In 18 minutes of play, he put in 8/0/0 on 2-3/0-1/4-4 shooting and - most importantly - only turned the ball over once. His three-point attempt came at the end of the shot-clock, so I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that otherwise wouldn't have shot it. Aside from that, he made almost nothing but good decisions today and showed flashes of the talent he possesses at a time when Xavier was on the way to giving away what should have been an easy win.
Let's end on a positive note here. Xavier's 21 turnovers were obviously not an acceptable total, but on possessions when they didn't turn it over they averaged 1.556 points per trip down the floor. The Muskies were merely decent on the glass, but they shot 60% from inside the arc, 50% from outside it, and 80% from the line. Defensively, Xavier allowed only .99 points per possession, and that number is badly inflated by the 24 points off of turnovers that DePaul scored. Most of Xavier's problems in the second half consisted of a team up 18 at the break coming out and playing like they believed the game was over. That's obviously not a feather in the team's cap, but there are bigger problems to have than having to try to learn how to play with a massive lead. I have every confidence that Coach Mack will make sure the team learns the proper lesson from the experience, and they can count themselves lucky to have not picked up a loss in learning it. That awful second half will leave a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths - including my own - but there is a lot of good to be taken away from this game. With Creighton handing it to Villanova as I write this, it looks like X will end the night tied for second in the conference, half a game off the leader. If you had offered me that position back in Novemeber, I'd have taken it without even asking you how many second-half turnovers Xavier would have at DePaul.
Odds and ends:
-Matt Stainbrook was plagued by foul trouble and an uncharacteristic profligacy with the ball, finishing the night with 6/8/4 on 3-6/0-0/0-0 shooting.
-There were 48 personal fouls called in 40 minutes of basketball tonight. In the second half alone, the refs called a foul every 38 seconds on average, keeping the game from picking up any kind of flow.
-James Farr hit a three and missed at least three layups on his way to 4/5/0 on 1-6/1-2/1-2 shooting.
-Jalen Reynolds picked up a foul within ten seconds of checking in on his way to 2 fouls in 4 minutes of playing time.
-The Muskies' efforts were helped immensely by DePaul's 22-38 from the line; it's nice to not be talking about Xavier as the worse foul shooting team in a given game.
That's it from me. Brad is at his in-laws and writing on a computer that was programmed in cuneiform, so it's hard to say for certain when his recap will be up. Xavier is back in action at Providence this Saturday. Warmest regards.