Xavier led the biggest game of the year 39-29 at the half. Desperately needing a win, the Musketeers finally came out of the gate with some life. Once again though, Xavier completely fell apart when the pressure was on. The difference from Memphis, Temple, and SLU this first time, is that this just cost the Musketeers any chance at an at large bid.
I've watched a lot of bad teams in my life. Being nearly 30 and a fan of Xavier and all things Cleveland will insure that losing sports teams are nothing new. I am not sure, though, that I have ever seen a team this disappointing. When the chips are down and there is everything to play for, these guys simply fold. That is exactly what happened last night.I could break down for you exactly how it happened, how a 24-3 doomed the team, how Brian Conklin just would not give up, how Xavier simply could not make a bucket when it mattered. Rather than do that, though, (you all know by now) it's time to focus on the season long issues that also ruined this game.
1. Guard oriented offense: Kenny Frease dominated this game when he played. His 10/6/1 came in only 18 minutes of time. That's an incredible performance from the big man from Massillon. When things started getting away from the Musketeers though, Kenny was an afterthought. For 11 minutes in the second half, as the Billikens put the game and season away, Frease didn't get one field goal attempt. Poor officiating hurt Kenny to some extent, but in the nine minutes during which Xavier's most effective player didn't get a shot, the guards from New York took five and turned the ball over four times. That's nine possessions that ended without Frease. From those nine, Xavier go two points.
2. No forward prduction: Jeff Robinson, Travis Taylor, and Andre Walker combined to play 48 minutes. In that time, the chipped in a line of 10/10/4. That's terrible. Actually, it is worse than terrible. With Kenny playing like a monster, he wears down, when he wears down, he needs some help. None of the other bigs stepped up last night. Even more disturbing is that Walker had 6/5/3 in 31 minutes. That means that Taylor and Robinson contributed 17 minutes of, basically, nothing. Congratulations though, you had as many assists as Travis Taylor last night and he only grabbed one more rebound than you. Good work.
3. No Dez in the half court: With 18:36 to play in the second half, Dez Wells scored his 13th point and looked well on his way to having an absolute monster of a game. Unfortunately, that was it for the freshman. When Saint Louis clamped down on the running and Xavier ratcheted up the early shot clock heaves, Wells disappeared. Dez is one of the best freshman to come through the program in a long, long time, but he is yet to find a way to effectively function in a half court offense. Until he does, he'll remain a ghost on the fringes of games, slamming down monster dunks and making freakish plays, but never fully there.
4. Terrell Holloway: Tu Holloway is a killer, the gangster of December 10th. Tu Holloway is the guy who took over the Dayton game and simply would not let his team lose. Terrell Holloway is the guy you saw last night. Twice now Xavier has played SLU with conference supremacy on the line, and twice now Tu has failed to arrive for the game. 4/4/4 on 1-6 with three turnovers is bad, there's no other way to say it. Tu is getting 16/6/4 on 40.8% from the floor. If here weren't an otherworldly free throw shooter, would he be considered an elite guard? Probably not, and that's not a good thing for a team that needs him.
5. Coaching: All season long we have defended Coach Mack from message board warriors, high school heroes, and the other "experts" that crowd around college basketball programs. Well, he keeps making it harder. For what seems like the 20th time this year, an opposing coach hit the Musketeers with something they weren't expecting. And, once again, the coaching staff failed to adjust. Coach Mack can rail all he would like against early shots and failed execution, but he is the person that puts people in the position to make those decisions, and he just keeps doing it. Last night Xavier desperately needed someone to make a jumpshot. Despite that, Brad Redford remained anchored to the bench after a brief (and admittedly poor) appearance in the first half. Redford has worked hard to expand his offensive repertoire, and that had been rewarded with an average of 16 minutes in the last four games. Last night, Redford got two minutes. Dee Davis, shooting 27% from deep, took a three pointer with two minutes left while Redford, shooting over 50% in 2012, watched. Inexcusable man management.
That's it for the Saint Louis game. Such a draining experience is difficult to watch, let alone write about. Stay tuned this week for another bubble update and, of course, all of our coverage of the Charlotte game.