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Xavier v. Charlotte: Recap

What happened: Xavier 68-Charlotte 48

Dante being Dante
Tonight the Xavier Musketeers had two things to do. One was beat the Charlotte 49ers, a team that Dante Jackson said we "laid an egg" against a month ago. The second was win a fifth straight A10 regular season title. Both were accomplished, and both in true Xavier fashion.

Charlotte started the game on a 7-0 run and if it is possible for a crowd to sound uneasy, this one did. The Musketeers, however, were not about to let this one slip away. Dante Jackson made it 7-5 with his first of four three pointers, and X slowly played themselves back into it. When Jamel McLean gathered three offensive rebounds in one possession and finally scored to make it 15-13 Xavier, the writing was on the wall. 

Frease dominated inside
Here in America we love the plucky underdog, the scrappy team or player that never quits, we love to talk about heart and desire winning the day. There is one thing though, that trumps all that, and that is talent. Tonight's game simply reinforced that idea. Charlotte has to be lauded for their effort. Down 15-13 and with the Cintas Center ready to celebrate, the 49ers just kept trying. They hit the floor after every loose ball, they attacked the glass with abandon, they gamely tried to keep Kenny Frease, Jeff Robinson, and Jamel McLean off the boards. None of that mattered though, because the 49ers simply aren't very good.

McLean was simply too athletic
Dante Jackson, on the other hand, is. The game hit a lull at 15-15 as the tenacious gang from Charlotte kept fighting. At the 9:13 mark, Jackson had seen enough. A pretty pass from Andrew Taylor left Dante plenty of space for three pointer number two and a minute later number three was following it down and the score was 23-15. Charlotte briefly closed to within five, but the game was all but over at that point. The Musketeers never really put on a run, instead they just squeezed the life out of the game.

At the half it was 36-25, Xavier and Coach Chris Mack opined that Charlotte's 17 half court points were an amount he could live with any day. In the second half the 49ers only managed 23 more against a Musketeer defense that was simply too athletic for them.

Dante says goodbye
As the game went on it became simply a matter of time until the seniors began to take their leave. Jamel McLean was the first to depart to an ovation, followed shortly by the emotional heart of the team, Dante Jackson. Andrew Taylor stayed on long enough for one more bucket before he too, headed for the bench. The Three Headed Monster then got its richly deserved two minutes of playing time at the end of the game.

Missing from his usual spot at the top of the scoring chart was Tu Holloway. Have no fear though, he made a conscious decision to take a backseat to the seniors today. Jackson said that "Tu came out and decided he wanted to be a facilitator" tonight. His eight assists to only two turnovers speaks volumes about his ability to do just that.

Game Balls:
Dante Jackson: 18-7-1 and four steals for the man who said "I just felt like we were playing so hard, that we wanted it so, so bad." Dante was extremely active on both ends of the floor and it was obvious the team was feeding off his energy. 6-10 from the floor and 4-7 from behind the arc are great numbers for a player who is often the fourth offensive option.


Jamel McLean: 11-13-0 for Dante's fellow starting senior. Jamel was way, way too much for whoever Charlotte ostensibly had on him down low. Time and again he outworked his man and he finished the game with six offensive rebounds to show for it.


Not so much:
Jeff Robinson: 2-2-1 in 18 minutes for enigmatic big man. Jeff looked almost depressed at points tonight and was completely lacking the verve he'd shown in the past two games. I'm at a loss as to what makes him tick.


Final Thoughts:
Xavier basketball means something a bit different to all of us. Tonight we saw the emotion from Dante Jackson as he laughed, waved, and smiled his way off the court at the end, we saw three young men in Johnny Mazza, Kevin Feeney, and Joe Hughes be rewarded for hours and hours of unseen toil with a couple precious moments in front of the home crowd, we saw Jamel McLean celebrate senior night by simply doing what he always does. In all of this, though, we saw our team. 

Maybe you'll take something different away from tonight than I did. Maybe you'll remember the no look over the shoulder pass Tu threw, but forget Feeney's block at the buzzer. Maybe you'll remember Kenny Frease catching perfectly weighted passes more than you'll remember Mark Lyons throwing them, maybe you'll look back and admire Andrew Taylor's dedication to playing through the pain. Either way, take some time to appreciate this moment. Your team, the one they said was rebuilding, the one that started 8-5, the one that lost its best recruit and best shooter in the preseason, is, once again, the Atlantic 10 Conference Champion. That, my friends, is something we can all revel in.