Sunday Conversation: 2/9

Not pictured: Bryce Cotton with the basketball. - Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Video highlights of Semaj's steal, Marcus Smart's little bit of trouble, and Xavier's road woes.

Joel
That was a miserable last eight and a half minutes of offense. Thank goodness the defense showed up, because that allowed us to tie them 5-5 over those decisive 510 seconds. Two college teams combined to average a point every 51 seconds down the stretch. I'm going to attribute that to two teams cranking up the D because they knew how big the game was rather than two offenses that couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat.

Brad
That was dreadful offense, but I don't care. We needed that win and we needed the defense to reappear. It did, and I wonder how much impact Jalen Reynolds had on that. He was very active on both ends, and he didn't Sacre.
That wasn't in any way the big story tonight, though. I came off the ice where, try to wrap your mind around this, it was very cold, and all I heard about was Marcus Smart. I have no idea what that guy said, but this completely dismissive way he waved his hand in front of Smart indicated that he was in desperate need of a punching.

Joel
Smart is saying the dude used the N word, dude is denying it. The guy also has a history of reprehensible behavior; someone tweeted a picture of him flying an opposing player the bird in 2011. None of that excuses Smart, but you have to wonder what is going on in that guy's life that makes him feel the need to go abuse 18-22 year olds on a regular basis. Everyone looks bad here, but I'm starting to get the feeling that that dude was overdue for a beating. I wonder if Smart still thinks he made the right choice staying in school another year.

Bryan
I think Reynolds return helped the defense, especially as he didn't seem intent on fouling out and still jumps higher than literally everyone. However, referring back to our last Sunday Convo (abbreviations: all the cool kids do it) the main factor in this win was the presence of 3 (three!) options for X on offense. JMart made it happen and, to his credit and our shock, almost looked like he meant to do it. I am a JMart apologist, but that is by far the most invested he has looked in a game in his 4 years. Also, Semaj's rip wasn't bad either, I guess.

As for Smart, much like Ron Artest (or Free Trade Coffee or whatever it is now) in Detroit a few years ago, you will never look good going after someone in the stands. That being said, the way fans conduct themselves at games sometimes in regards to players both home and away makes me want to punch them, and I am not the one being heckled. I am not going to say this dude had it coming, but at what point if you are someone he came to the game with do you inform him that he is conducting himself like a complete jackanape?

Did you guys watch our boy Sage and his feathery blonde locks bring home the Olympics' first gold last night? Luckily Jare was over so all my Michaels and McElroy based humor was in play.

Joel
How far has Semaj come on defense? He was rarely heads-up against the opponent's best player last year; now we put him on one of the best guards in the conference in one of the biggest games of the year. Joe made a great point on the radio: Cotton came down the left channel about 90% of the time before working onto his right hand back to the middle of the floor to start his move. It's possible that Semaj had noticed a pattern and was just waiting on the right time to take advantage. If so, the last two meaningful possessions of the game were pretty good choices. If not, Semaj's just a mongoose on defense. Either way, Providence was all like "Go win the game for us, Ice!" and then Semaj borrowed the ball from him twice in a row.

And yes, they really call him Ice.

If that dude's buddies (assuming he has any) wouldn't tell him to stop going after a college basketball player because he's a grown man, shouldn't there have been some stewards or security or something there? Hopefully (but not likely) this is the opener to a conversation about restraining fan conduct. A ticket is not carte blanche to do whatever you want.

Brad
Thanks. I heard that in my car, but I hadn't seen it yet. Speaking of listening, Xavier fans have a great radio team. Joe is so professional and detailed and Byron called that play by repeatedly yelling "he stole his ice cream!" I was momentarily wondering whether I had tuned in to some sort of live on the air radio drama or something. They just make a perfect pairing, and you can tell they enjoy working together.

Joel
Speaking of not that, the next three games are really big for X. That stretch run is brutal; we need at least two of three. I'm counting on beating Butler and DePaul; we can't afford to gag on either of those games. Butler at Hinkle isn't a gimmie, but we have to be able to win that game if we have aspirations of being a meaningful team. If we could pinch that game at Marquette, that would give us some breathing room down the stretch.

Bryan
I think the obvious key down the stretch is Semaj's teammates giving him reason to trust them and him acting on that. However, we have looked extremely ill prepared in road games, with even the win at DePaul being sloppy and harder than it had to be. I am wondering if the presence of a leader in the vein of Burrell or Dante needs to emerge for this team to get them out of this road slump. Honestly, I am just guessing as to that being the problem, but until whatever the issue with road games is gets fixed, Butler may be our last chance at a road win this season. I understand home court advantage and all that, but this team is markedly less confident and thus less successful away from Cintas.

Joel
I've gotta think a road win or two would give us a big boost. If we can take care of business at Hinkle, I think we have a chance going into Marquette. Knocking off both of those teams would really set us up nicely heading into the last three weeks of Big East play.

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