This should have been an opportunity to pick up a vital win down the stretch as Xavier closes their schedule with one of the most difficult runs in the nation. Instead, a Georgetown team that looked very bad in losing to Seton Hall less than 36 hours ago opened up a can on the Muskies, who are now scrambling to find a way to finish the conference season above .500.
How did this happen? The same way many of Xavier's recent losses have happened: turnovers and three-point shooting. The three-point defense was superficially not bad, as Georgetown only went 5-12 from behind the arc, but that was because the Hoyas simply didn't need to shoot very many threes. Instead, they came out in a 3/4-court press that flummoxed Xavier from the word go. The Musketeers' first possession was a ten-second violation. Things scarcely got better from there, as Georgetown forced 11 turnovers in the game and scored an astonishing 20 points off of them. With 5 of the turnovers coming on Georgetown steals, fast breaks and the easy baskets that ensue were inevitable. That combination of easy points given to the other team and lost opportunities on the offensive end was the difference in the game.
This was not the first time this year a combination of questionable three-point defense - and make no mistake, Georgetown could have had twice as many clean looks from deep if they had needed the points - and an inability to solve a non-traditional defense has torpedoed the Musketeers' hopes in a game. None of the signs I saw today point to it being the last.
Semaj's line was not bad, as he went for 18/0/2 on a sterling 5-5/1-1/7-9 shooting. He was able to get baskets, but the Hoyas' defense didn't make it easy on him. More than a few of his finishes demonstrated the improvisational skill and body control that have scouts attending Xavier games and fans wondering if he'll be back for another year or not.
Justin Martin came out as Good JMart early but had trouble gaining traction in the game. His line of 13/4/2 on 4-10/3-6/2-2 shooting established him as the team's second-leading scorer, leading rebounder, and joint-leading assist man on the game, which is both a testament to how far he has come in terms of production and sad fact regarding how the Muskies fared as a team.
Matt Stainbrook was just a point behind him with 12/4/2 on 4-7/0-0/4-4 shooting. Like Martin, Stainbrook also added a blocked shot to the day's proceedings. It is, if nothing else, at least interesting to note that Georgetown's two starting bigs combined for 9 fouls, and much of that has to go down to Stainbrook's work in the post.
If you're at all familiar with what we do here, maybe you've noticed that those paragraphs are a little shorter and shallower than we usually go. That's because I left out one key ingredient for ech player: turnovers. Semaj led the way with 4, and Stainbrook and Martin each had 3. Xavier had three guys who could probably get them a basket during the contested portion of the game, and they couldn't force feed any of them the ball because nobody could hold onto it. Part of the failings here are strategic, but the bottom line is that it's hard to execute a plan - no matter how good or bad it is - when you can't clutch the pumpkin.
Dee Davis has trouble against teams with big and/or physical guards, especially if they're going to put hands on him from endline to endline. Georgetown did just that today, and Davis had a tough game. He put up 0/1/2 (with no turnovers!) before fouling out after playing just 24 minutes. If he could have had a chance to get into the flow of the game, he might have been able to make a difference for X. Instead, he shot just 0-4/0-2/0-0 before taking his leave.
The rest is just the flotsam and jetsam of the shipwreck this game was. Xavier put up a very respectable .421/.333/.800 shooting line, but they had 11 fewer shot attempts than the Hoyas. That was thanks to the 13-3 edge Georgetown had in forcing turnovers, but also the fact that Xavier only grabbed 6 offensive boards to Georgetown's 9. The Muskies only had 8 assists on their 16 made buckets. The rare bright spots for Xavier - like Jalen Reynolds's massive blocked shot - were quickly negated by more errors - like Jalen's techincal for yelling at the dude whose shot he had sent.
With @St. John's, Creighton, @Seton Hall, and Villanova left on the schedule, Xavier is still likely hunting at least two more wins to get into a comfortable posistion. It was always possible that they would lose each of their final five games, but this matchup against Georgetown seemed like a chance to at least establish something positive heading down the stretch. Instead, they were crushed so comprehensively that it's hard to blame any fan with NIT on his brain right now. Analyst Jon Rothstein tweets out a Selection Sunday countdown every day. When he started doing it, it felt like a build up to another potential tournament run. It's increasingly feeling like a marker of Xavier's pending demise.
Odds and ends:
-Jalen Reynolds played 15 minutes and didn't foul out.
-James Farr is 8 of his last 27 on three-point attempts (29.6%); he has hit multiple threes in a game once in the calendar year.
-Matt Stainbrook made a basket to cut the lead to 11 with 17:20 left. Xavier's next field goal came 12:37 later to cut the lead to 23.
-Xavier got comprehensively outplayed: Georgetown made more field goals, more threes, and more free throws while shooting field goals and threes at a higher percentage. Georgetown also had more offensive rebounds, more total rebounds, more assists, more steals, more blocks, and fewer turnovers.
That's it from me. Brad will be back with his narrative recap, and we'll have the Sunday Conversation on Sunday. The Muskies are back in action Tuesday against St. John's at MSG. It's not a must win, but it's sure a must make a better showing.