It wasn't pretty at times, but Xavier got it done against Fordham today. Despite the positive result, Xavier still showed they have a long way to go to get back to where they were during their 8-0 start. Defensive pressure has been a hallmark of Xavier teams that are going well, but the results were distinctly mixed for the Muskies today. While Xavier held the Rams to 35% shooting from inside the arc and 37.7% overall, they managed to allow a team that was shooting 27.5% from behind the arc on the season connect on 6-13 (46.2%) from deep on the game. Interior defense is taking a step in the right direction, but Xavier's defensive perimeter could have been a lot better against a group of young and poor-shooting guards.
With that said, there were plenty of good performances today. Cheeks had his eye for the bucket in good form today. He ended the day with 20/2/2 with 2 steals on 7-12/3-5/3-3 shooting. He probably could have posted an even more impressive line, but silly fouls had him shuttling back and forth to the bench all day. He picked up two fouls pressuring the ball at least 35 feet from the basket, and he grabbed a third on a technical foul for talking garbage after a steal. Lyons' maturity is still a work in progress, but his aggression was what Xavier needed today, and that continuing swagger is what the team needs moving forward.
Tu Holloway was conspicuous by his absence today; he put up 0/1/5 on a shooting line of 0-3/0-1/0-0. The more I think about this, though, the less it concerns me. Coach Mack has been repeatedly say that he has stressed moving the ball throughout possessions rather than trying to do something on your own early in the possession. Holloway sets the tone for the Musketeers, and his insane level of unselfishness got Xavier going in the right direction. In a game in which Xavier had 18 assists on 23 made buckets, seeing Holloway moving the ball rather than taking it all on his own inspired the Muskies to do the same.
It's hard to argue that anyone did more for the Xavier cause on both ends of the court than Andre Walker though. Defensively, he was matched up against Fordham's leading scorer in Chris Gaston, and he showed great discipline and talent in keeping Gaston from getting going. Gaston ended the game with 10/7/2 on 3-11/0-0/4-6 shooting and struggled to make an impact. Walker's stat line was great, too; he went for 7/14/5 on 3-8/0-1/1-1 shooting. He didn't pick up a single turnover, added a blocked shot, and ran down five offensive boards. Walker was brought in to be a glue guy for the team during his graduate year, and he has done exactly that. What a performance out of him today.
Big Kenny's finishing was uninspiring at best today - as his 2-8 mark from the floor will attest - but he got after it on the glass at both ends and provided a defensive presence inside for Xavier. His 9/8/1 line included five offensive boards; his total of two blocks doesn't speak fully to the amount of shots he altered in the paint. The big man still is missing a move to his left and had some trouble getting the ball on the glass, but his effort and intensity were there for the whole game, and his presence in the middle contributed to Fordham's struggles fromt he floor.
Odds and ends:
-Justin Martin is apparently still on the team; he got a bucket in his seven minutes today.
-Brad Redford connected on two threes and post 8/4/2 with a steal and only one turnover. Hopefully this was a breakout game from the gunner from Frankenmuth.
-The team shot 68% from the line today; remove Travis Taylor's 2-6 and they were at 81%. You can't remove that in a game though, and Trav needs to step it up from the line.
-I'd be remiss not to mention Brendan Frazier's 22/5/3 on 9-20/2-6/2-3 shooting. It wasn't a study in efficiency, but his doubling of his season average kept Fordham in the game.
-I warned you in the preview that Bristol was an eraser in the middle; he played 36 minutes today and blocked 6 shots.
-Xavier controlled the boards today, out-rebounding Fordham 44-31, including 14-8 on the offensive end.
(My dad is an old-school basketball guy and a die-hard X fan, and he and I text throughout the games from time to time. His opinions can be both insightful and entertaining, especially pulled from their context. Below is a sampling of his offerings tonight.)
-"Technical difficulties here."
-"Zone: need Red."
-"Did Kenny start?"
-"They always stick [Redford] with Robinson. It hurts him."
-"At least they're playing defense. Need to get in the open floor where our athletes can shine."
-"Jen 34% from the line. Pathetic. Technical difficulties here again."
-"I'm watching tennis."
-"Red has his game face on."
-"Wells is a beast!"
-Regarding the guy with the "Zip 'Em Up" sign: "That guy needs a reflection session."
-"Robinson should change into streets at halftime."
-"Sorry foul call. Davis needs to get settled."
-"Walker has been solid, Red boxed out, Lyons shoots well but should keep his mouth shut, Dez is a beast, Rob and Ken stink."
-"Martin in, he must have apologized to Mrs. Mack."
-"Lyons is a butt. Throws it away and then fouls."
-"Ref missed goaltending; that ball was on the glass."
-"Walk does a nice job of rebounding and getting the ball back out without hurrying."
-"We're looking better but not good."
-"That dude from The Mummy is killing us."
-After Kenny's airplane celebration: "Put your arms down, you big doofus."
-"Big win over powerhouse Fordham. D looked more intense early but had a couple lapses. I'll take it."
As always, come back for Brad's full recap tomorrow afternoon. Xavier's next game is game is at home on Wednesday, 1/11, against Duquesne. Tip off slated for 7pm.