What happened: Xavier 74 - Drake 70
One of the difficult things about an inexperienced but talented team is that there are going to be flashes of brilliance followed by moments of mind-boggling ineptitude. Coach Mack addressed this issue in his post-game interview with Byron (who was in mid-season form today) and Joe. Over and over when discussing the good, bad, and ugly of the weekend, he kept coming back to consistency as the one key for this team to hit its ceiling for this year.
Jeff Robinson is a senior, but he is in some senses an inexperienced player. Through some of his own doing, Robinson has been mostly peripheral in his three years at Xavier, and he looked that way again for most of the game today. With 8:50 left in the game, Robinson was sitting on a line of 0/3/0 and had been anonymous at best during the proceedings. From that point forward, Robinson had 13 and 4, including an absolute hammer of a dunk at the 4:25 mark to make the score 57-50 and punctuate the fact that Xavier was taking control of the game.
Much like the Pacific game, Xavier once again jumped out to a big lead, this time finding themselves up 8 less than 6 minutes in. Once again, the Muskies let down and gave the lead away bucket by bucket. By the time halftime rolled around, the offense had gone silent to the tune of six points in 8:47, and Drake led 30-26.
The second half, however, was one of the better stretches of basketball Xavier has played this season, and it began with defense. Needing to find a way back into the game with the offense sputtering its way to nine turnovers in the first half, the X defense zipped things up in the first 17 minutes of the second half, allowing just 22 points in that span to allow Xavier to find its offensive stride and carry an 11-point lead with 2:47 left. In that last 2:47, it appeared the team relaxed a bit, but X was able to answer 6-9 from behind the arc from Drake with a Jeff Robinson dunk and a 9-10 showing from the line to see the game out.
Freshman guard Semaj Christon continued to play good ball, putting up a 16/6/7 line on 5-12/1-2/5-7 shooting. The only blight on his performance was his five turnovers, but he definitely showed the potential that made him one of the top guards in the nation when he committed to come play at Xavier. Christon went for 57/19/10 with 9 turnovers on the weekend; not too shabby considering those were games 3-5 on his career and he's still recovering from the infected elbow.
Travis Taylor went for a fairly unimpressive 3/1/3 on 1-4/0-0/1-2 shooting. He has shown good athleticism in the open court, but he struggled to make much of an impact in his 27 minutes today. On the other hand, Erik Stenger played 9 minutes and put up 0/3/0, but his energy off the bench was the spark that ultimately got Xavier going. Isaiah Philmore had 10/6/0 including 3 offensive rebounds. If Taylor struggles the way he did today, Coach Mack has a couple of options off the bench to keep things fresh.
Odds and ends:
-After starting the season 9-11 from deep, Brad Redford is mired in a 2-13 slump from beyond the arc. He's still perfect from the line, now shooting 10-10 on the year.
-Turnovers have suddenly become a problem for Dee Davis - he had 10 this weekend - but his scoring has been very efficient. He put up 15/3/2 on 4-7/1-2/5-7 today and he and Christon have looked very comfortable playing alongside one another despite both being natural point guards.
-Xavier had 13 assists on 23 made buckets in tonight's game. An assist percentage of 56.5% leaves Xavier with some room for improvement in terms of ball movement but is better than the stagnation that has plagued this team in the past.
That's it from me. Stay tuned for Brad's full recap as well as our look at the polls tomorrow and continuing Xavier coverage all week. The Muskies are back in action Saturday against Purdue.