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Xavier v. UMass: Game Recap

Tu Holloway's outside shooting changed the game
What happened: Xavier 79- UMass 50

I said before the game that these were the kind of games that competitive teams need to win. UMass had started the season hot but, aside from a fluke win over Dayton, had not played well coming into last night's game. Xavier had to capitalize on that by killing the game off early, and after taking a quick 10-4 lead, they surely had hopes of doing just that.It wasn't going to be quite that easy for the home team. A 10-4 run by the Minutemen capitalized on three straight Xavier turnovers and tied the game at 14 with 9:39 to play in the first. The 3-2 zone of UMass was choking off access to an already productive Kenny Frease (five points in the first five minutes) and "forcing" both Bob Cousy Award Finalist Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons into some truly appalling passes.

But just as Tu sometimes takes, he gives. In the next six minutes Holloway buried two long range threes, assisted Dante Jackson on two more, and scored two points from the line. After a 21-4 run, the Musketeers were cruising. Of those 21, Tu scored 10, and assisted on eight more. Kenny Frease also chipped in with three more and added an assist to McLean. But for two missed Kevin Feeney free throws and a mystery turnover on Jay Canty (seriously ESPN, he's still hurt) the run would have been even more devastating.

The three point shooting from Jackson and Holloway was what broke the game open. Prior to that, UMass was packing inside and daring the Musketeers to shoot from behind the arc. As soon as the long range shots started dropping, the zone was stretched and the game was, effectively, over. 

The second half was a clinic in how to kill off a team that is on the ropes. Holloway and Lyons took care of the ball, the bigs continued to get opportunities to pound away, and everyone got to the line. Hashim Bailey, the only UMass player sizable enough to handle Frease, fouled out in five minutes of atrociously ineffective play. Byron Larkin was so moved by the display that he proclaimed Bailey had "no discernible basketball skill."

By the time the three headed monster hit the court, the game was well out of hand. Anyone that thought Xavier was dead after the Shootout needs only look at the last two games to see a well-coached team looking to making a statement in the conference. Onward and upward.

Keys to the game:
- Joel mentioned in the preview that packing in the defense would be crucial. Jamel McLean echoed that sentiment after the game, "they weren't really a 3-point shooting team. So we were able to pack our defense in and help on their drives." The Minutemen rattled in 6-23 from behind the arc to help prove the point.

- The Musketeers were as effective from distance as UMass was ineffective. 8-20 isn't special but it was more than enough to bring the Minutemen out of their zone and  break their resistance.

Game balls:
- It gets redundant, but 19-5-8 is hard to overlook. Tu Holloway was once again the driving force behind a blowout victory. His shooting in the latter stages of the first half turned the game around.

- Kenny Frease was also an important cog in the machine, adding 16-7-3 on 6-10 from the field and 4-5 from the line. Frease also managed to not turn the ball over and the passing between he and McLean inside has really progressed in the last couple of weeks.

Not so much: 
- Hashim Bailey and Derek Kellogg have to be singled out for their pathetic management of Bailey's foul situation. It was a complete mental malfunction on the part of both coach and player.

Final thoughts:
- A good performance from a team looking to send a message in the A10. UMass may have squeaked past the ever loathable Dayton, but Xavier was not taken by surprise.

Next game: 15 Jan @ 8:00pm vs. Dayton.