I was hoping that this was going to be a game recap about a group of guys who came off the bench in a time of need and carried the school colors to an improbable win. Failing that, I was hoping to write about a gallant effort from an overmatched group that went down kicking and screaming. As you know if you watched today's debacle, neither of those was the case.
This game ceased to be a tune up for the holidays the moment Dez Wells decided the YMCA was the best way to resolve things last Saturday. As Joel already outlined, Xavier was missing 42% of its minutes and 58% of its scoring coming in to the game today. Early on, that didn't look to be a problem. Xavier actually led 5-1 with 17 minutes to play. Quick ball movement and success inside, however, proved a mirage.
Oral Roberts dispatched the Musketeers not long after that. With 12 minutes to play it was 16-7. As grim as that was, things got worse. From the 9:24 mark on in the first half, Xavier scored three field goals and a free throw. Travis Taylor was a whirlwind of ineffcient effort down low, while Kenny Frease was doubled and tripled on his first touch every time. With the best backcourt in college ball missing, it was clear that the Golden Eagles were going to make Brad Redford and Dee Davis shoulder the load.
Redford is a fan favorite, and for good reason. Usually when the #12 jogs onto the court there is a palpable buzz from a crowd that knows he'll be lingering high opposite in the half court or trailing the break while Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway run. Today, though, Brad Redford was forced into 35 minutes. A specialist playing 35 minutes is usually a recipe for disaster, and today wasn't any different. Redford looked tired late, rushed early, and generally a bit out of sorts. His 1-6/0-5/0-0 line is terribly ineffective for a two guard that isn't a defensive stopper.
Dee Davis, on the other hand, handled the pressure fairly well. For a freshman point guard who generally spends his time watching the best point in the nation, Davis was excellent. 10/3/6 isn't exactly setting the world aflame, but Davis managed a positive A/TO and tried to initiate the offense as best he could. The crux of this game, though, was that the offense simply wouldn't initiate. To look at the second half play by play is to see a team that simply doesn't know what it can do. Nearly everyone was playing a role that was unfamiliar or minutes that their legs aren't used to.
I could tell you all the gory details, but you most likely either saw or heard it. And, quite frankly, it was brutal. Oral Roberts stormed out of the half clearly intent on putting the game to bed and, to their credit, they did. Without the talent to matchup, Xavier began to lag a bit getting back on defense, cut less aggressively, and in general play like a team getting trounced. With three minutes to play the Musketeers tralied by an almost incomprehensible 62-33 score.
At one point during the second half, cameras showed Chris Mack simply staring at the court and rubbing his head. It was as if the coach was seeing what his life would be like if he couldn't recruit well. Coach Mack resisted the urge to tear into the remaining players, and they responded for him by showing some life at the end to bring the game slightly closer to respectable. Today wasn't about Oral Roberts though, it was about paying penance for the Crosstown Shootout.
Who runs the point? It was always going to be Darwin Davis, and he did an admirable job. All the internet message board chatting about Martin, Redford, or Walker missed the simple fact that a college basketball offense is a very intricate thing to simply pick up in a week. Much like using a laptop to pound a nail, using a player out of position may get the job done, but it won't be optimal.
Can Big Kenny be the primary offensive threat? The big man clearly wanted to be, and Coach Mack clearly wanted him to be, but the Golden Eagles weren't having it. If Davis and Redford hadn't combined for an 0-10 showing from deep, Kenny could have had some space to operate. They did though, and he didn't.
Is Xavier ready to play without Tu and Cheeks? No. We both are big Coach Mack supporters, but his team was lacking more than just players today. The swagger and ferocity that Holloway and the King of Upstate bring can't be replaced and, somewhat more troublingly, it didn't look like anyone wanted to step into that void. The Musketeers weren't ready today, and they got run off the floor because of it.
- Justin Martin, 5/3/0 in 20 minutes, needs to start contributing regularly. He's been a non-factor for most of the season so far, and he missed an opportunity today.
- So did Jeff Robinson, again.
- Brad Redford is great when he can play his role. His 0-5 today isn't encouraging, but if his knee is ok there is no reason to expect to continue to shoot that poorly.
- Andre Walker's importance to this team cannot be overstated. He tried his level best to do everything today. Walker isn't blessed with the talent of some other players, but his savvy and intelligence can't be replaced.
- Griffin McKenzie should probably look into a transfer. Being the last guy off the bench in a drubbing is bad enough. When you are the last guy off the bench when there are only eight scholarship guys, you know where you stand.
Next Game: @ Diamond Head, LBSU, 11pm Dec 22