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Xavier v. Richmond: Recap

What happened: Xavier 85- Richmond 62

Three the hard way
Joel, and Thomas Carlyle, were correct in saying that Xavier needed to change up the pack line defense for this game against Richmond. What neither of them could have known was that Coach Chris Mack was having much the same thought. "I just say, if they’re going to shoot threes, I want to at least know where they are on the floor. So we went to a zone defense," Mack explained. 

Attacking zone defense requires a good deal of athleticism and a trust that your teammate is paying attention. Today, Xavier's zone was a tremendous example of what a well coached team can do with a 1-2-2.

When Dan Geriot and his smug smirk assisted Darien Brothers for three with 13:19 to play in the first half the score was 18-13 Richmond and it looked for all the world like this was going to be a game that the Spiders simply shot Xavier out of. The next time down the court Richmond was staring at a 1-2-2 that the Musketeers had never shown before and less than seven minutes later Xavier took a lead it would never relinquish.

That is over-simplifying things though. What Xavier effectively did was disrupt the rhythm of the deadly Richmond shooters. Prior to the zone the Spiders were 4-5 from behind the arc, after the zone they went 6-25. The zone prevented Richmond from getting the ball into the middle or low post for easy passes to the high opposite wing shooter. No longer able to step into a comfortable shot, the Spiders began settling for face up jumpers. With no natural rhythm to the shooting, the result was predictable. (It must be pointed out that the persistence to lift in the face of insurmountable evidence that it isn't working speaks volumes about the Richmond coaching).

Xavier, meanwhile, took the energy from the defensive end of the court to the offensive end as well. Kenny Frease and Jamel McLean were men among boys on the glass (18 rebounds between them to Richmond's 25 as a team) and Holloway and Lyons slashed again and again to expose massive holes in the hopelessly outdated 2-3 of Richmond. By the time the dust had settled, the Musketeers had eviscerated a very competent defensive team by shooting 49% from the floor and 97% from the line. Even the 36% from behind the arc seems much better when you remove Dante Jackson's obligatory 0-3.

It would be unfair to Jackson to just cast him as "horrid shooting guy" yet again. His defensive effort to Holloway's right most of the game kept Richmond from establishing any sort of room fro Harper or Brothers to shoot. Jackson was consistently in the face of any ballhandler coming his way and had a hand in the passing lanes all night. If the rest of the team can keep scoring, Dante's defense should keep him out there.

Game balls:

Tu Holloway- 33-7-5 pretty much speaks for itself. ESPN's play by play man (and forgive me, I've forgotten his name) said early in the game that Xavier no longer had the star power it used to. A bit more research would have prevented that mistake but just watching this game should disabuse him of that notion. Tu even scored by inbounding the ball off an inattentive, and no longer smirking, Dan Geriot.

Kenny Frease- The proverbial "quiet" 19-6-1 was overshadowed by Tu's game, but Kenny is turning into a low post beast. His brawn cleared the space for Xavier to dominate on the glass.

Not so much:

No one. This was a solid team effort on both ends of the floor. The reanimated Jeff Robinson even got in on the act with seven boards and some Poseyesque wingspan in the zone.

Next game: @ Charlotte Wednesday, 2 Feb @ 7:30