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Xavier v. La Salle: Recap

XU is more than just Tu
What happened: Xavier 100- La Salle 62

Xavier needed a fast start last night. According to our preview "once X establishes a lead tomorrow, they need to pour it on until the game is well out of reach." Evidently, we weren't the only ones to have mentioned that. Byron Larkin said early in the game that the last two days of practice for the Musketeers had not been pleasant ones. It could hardly have showed any more.XU followed the pattern it has all year by jumping to a quick lead on the way to what should be an easy win. Yesterday, however, there was no let up. Byron Larkin said that "good teams only take their hands off your throat to re-grip." The Musketeers didn't even do that. Leading 12-2, the men in white went on a 24-4 run to take a 38-6 lead with 9:01 remaining in the first half. No, that is not a mistake, and you didn't read that wrong. An in conference game in late February featured a 32 point first half lead.


See, he's still yelling.
Anyone expecting the Musketeers to coast home content with a 20 point win has evidently never spent much time around Coach Chris Mack. A Mark Lyons defensive miscue cost him some first half time. Jeff Robinson, despite a dominant offensive performance, also found himself on the bench after a defensive lapse. Mack's constant exhortation of his troops could be heard over the radio feed. It was clear he was not at all interested in a letup after the Fordham debacle. His team did not let him down.


Remember Fordham? Tu does
At the half it was 52-20. Larkin and Joe Sunderman both took time over the break to speculate as to what kind of fire the Musketeers would show coming back with a 32 point lead. They didn't have to worry though, because Tu Holloway, himself publicly upset after the Fordham game, drove the team just as aggressively in the second half. Holloway took only six shots all game, but distributed the ball like, dare I say, Bob Cousy. With the team still cutting and posting with purpose, Tu just kept feeding them. True point guards don't have to score to influence and Tu's 12 points last night demonstrate that. A 12-9-15 line is dominant, no matter how you look at it


But Tu wasn't the only Musketeer who brought his A game last night. The oft-maligned Jeff Robinson exploded for 22 points in his first start since the Butler game. Robinson was starting for the deposed Mark Lyons who was benched following what Coach Mack called a "bone-headed decision." Whether that was on the floor or elsewhere isn't readily apparent. Lyons, for his part, responded well and played 23 minutes off the bench, scoring 15. Jamel McLean, who was battling the flu, and Kenny Frease also played well. Indeed, they and Jeff Robinson combined for 20 of Xavier's first 23 points of the game.


The biggest story of the game played itself out in the final moments. With Tu Holloway on nine rebounds and Xavier not exactly clinging to a 40 point lead, a second straight triple-double became the focus. Kenny Frease, who refused to comment, and Griffin McKenzie were both booed by the crowd for grabbing boards that a motivated Holloway, "I really wanted it, I’m not going to lie," said the guard, had his eye on. Holloway was removed with around six to play but talked his way into one more minute starting at the 4:41 mark. Sadly for all but La Salle, no rebounds fell his way. Coach Mack said "I’m the guy that has to make the decision... I don’t know what the right thing to do is." Coach Mack hit the nail on the head later when he opined, "one rebound doesn’t keep it from being an incredible game."An incredible game it was, and the chance of a star being injured for a statistical achievement, no matter how special, just isn't worth it.


Game Balls:


Tu Holloway: 12-9-15 is a brilliant game no matter how you slice it. Holloway was only 2-6 from the floor, but hardly had to shoot to leave his mark on the game. The run Holloway is on this year merits all the attention it is getting and a great deal more. Players like this don't come along that often.


Jeff Robinson: 22-1-0 doesn't look great, but six points, a rebound, a steal, and a block all came in the first three and a half minutes. Robinson was a huge spark to the Musketeers early. The temerity usually so evident in his game was nowhere to be seen. That was evidenced in a monster dunk with 3:57 to go. Larkin and Sunderman both reacted with the sort of enthusiasm usually reserved for an And 1 game.


Not so much:


Griffin McKenzie: This may be a bit harsh on the big man, but McKenzie needs to learn to rebound. His 3-3-2 line in 11 minutes seems nice, but he was consistently outhustled and outmusculed inside. With Robinson and Canty both playing well, any visible mistakes by McKenzie are going to be magnified.


Final thoughts:


This was the response that Coach Mack would have wanted from his team. The domination in the first half was unprecedented, but it didn't let up. An excellent game in preparation for Dayton. 


Next game: @Dayton, 1pm Sunday