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Xavier v. Dayton: Recap

Too much Tu
What happened: The usual. Xavier 66-Dayton 62

There are generally two kinds of rivalries in sports. There are the media-generated hype fests where the game itself seems peripheral. Think Duke-UNC with a bunch of rabid fans screaming at two teams who evince no particular dislike for one another. The other kind of rivalry is one that may not draw as much attention but is genuinely contested between two groups that don't like one another. Think Chris Wright and Tom Archdeacon combining for 50% of talking and walking a good game.

That, then, brings us to today's game at a sold-out UD Arena. There were the usual plethora of shirts suggesting unkind things about the coeds at Xavier, a mass of "fans" that attend one game a year, and a pep band that seems to know only one tune. It was, in short, pretty typical Dayton. 

What was also typical was the Xavier response. Much as Joel predicted on Saturday, the game was brutal inside. Some inconsistent refereeing led to a few skirmishes over the ball that looked more rugby than basketball. Despite that, Xavier hit Dayton early and often in opening up a 12 point halftime lead. From the off, Jeff Robinson played like he knew what was going on and he and Dante Jackson combined to frustrate Chris Wright, who really talks a good game.

Everyone knew a Dayton run would be coming in the second half. After all, you don't get to be NIT champs without being able to string together 10-12 minutes of slightly above average basketball. Sure enough, Dayton discovered the concept of defense in the second half and Tu and Cheeks (z) became a bit to content to launch three after three. The Musketeers defense, however, was the one that should be garnering the attention. Despite some remarkably poor second half offense, Xavier held the lead until the 1:48 mark.

With 1:48 to go the Arena was rocking, Chris Johnson was carrying Dayton all the way back, and the Musketeers still looked as calm as pre-game shootaround. The coaching job of Chris Mack and the staff cannot be overemphasized today. Despite the noise, despite some sketchy (both ways) officiating, despite a desperate Flyer run, the boys in blue just kept bearing down. Josh Benson, whose preening, posturing, and self-adulation belied his nine points, committed an idiot hip check foul on Tu Holloway 30 feet from the basket and, for just one second, the fans went quiet. With lungs and sheets of tinfoil arrayed against him, Tu stepped to the line and buried two free throws as if he were shooting in his driveway. 

Dayton still had plenty of time and the ball though, and they still had Chris Wright. You may remember Mr. Wright as being the one who was in the papers all week talking about beating Xavier. With the ball in his hands and chance to help his team to just that, Chris missed. Badly. Really badly, actually. 4-14, nine points, and four rebounds is perhaps not the best way to back up an awful lot of talk. 

Jamel McLean's rebound gave Xavier the ball and everyone in the building a chance to see something special. Tu Holloway has preferred to let his ability, and just the occasional peek of his tongue, do the talking all year, and today was no different. With under a minute to play Xavier ran a quick set to get the ball in the hands of one of the top twenty point guards in the nation. Tu dribbled to his right off a screen, seemingly intent on beating his man toward the rim. Almost mid-dribble he seemed to reconsider his options and go for the kill. 24 feet of basketball flight later, Xavier had again beaten Dayton.

Game Balls:

Tu Holloway: 26-6-5, 40 minutes of play and enough spring in his legs to bury an absolute dagger of a three with 48 seconds to play. Another incredible performance from a player who just seems to keep getting better. I've honestly run out of things to say.

Jeff Robinson: If shots altered were actually kept as a stat, Robinson would have really stuffed a box score line. For all the talk of Dayton's supposed inside play and rebounding prowess, they seemed awfully timid when Robinson was in the game. 8-6-0 hardly reflects his impact.

Not so much:

Kenny Frease: 8-4-1 on 3-7 from the floor is, thankfully, no longer a Big Kenny kind of night. Maybe the big man didn't like having "ogre" chanted at him or maybe even with the weight loss he still just isn't quick enough for a game like this. Either way, a down game from Frease today wasn't as much a hindrance as it could have been.

Final thoughts:

I really loathe Dayton. Frankly, I think I'd rather beat Dayton than UC. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Dante make the X while Mark Lyons waved goodbye to the Dayton fans. Arrogance and swagger are becoming a team that beats its rivals.

Next game: 2 March @ 7pm vs. Charlotte