The oft-maligned Kenny Frease also stepped up to the plate for himself and his team today. As Xavier struggled early, it was Frease's inside scoring that kept the game within shouting distance. He ended the first half with 9 and 7 despite spending some time on the pine due to foul trouble. He was a monster in the middle again in the second half, ending the game with 18/12/0 and a block on 7-12/0-1/4-6 shooting. Five of his boards were offensive. More importantly, Frease only turned the ball over once after coughing it up twice in the first four minutes. Even more importantly, he slowly strangled the life out of the insufferable but effective Chris Braswell. At the ten minute mark, Braswell had 26 points and 7 boards. His next rebound came with twenty-nine seconds left in the game and his next basket came with fifteen seconds left in the game. By the time those events occurred, Frease was basking in the glow of victory on the bench.
Andre Walker is the focus of Xavier's offense somewhere between rarely and never, but he, too, made good on the final home game of his college career. The Vandy transfer went for 6/4/2 with 4 steals and 2 blocks while never turning the ball over tonight. There's not much you can say about Walker's game; he's not flashy (today's massive dunk aside), doesn't draw attention to himself, and doesn't do stupid things. Xavier could use some steadiness on the floor, and Walker has provided that all season.
Mark Lyons and Dez Wells didn't bring their scoring shoes to Cintas today; between them, they shot 5-21/1-7/6-9. Lyons ended the game with 11 points, including five straight during a vital second-half surge to bring Xavier within one. I'll say this for Cheeks: you can't fault his perseverance. Dez only had 3 boards today, but he managed to pitch in 5 assists and avoid turning the ball over. The freshman has a bright future at X. Finally, Jeff Robinson came off the bench for 7 and 6 in 14 minutes on 3-3/0-0/1-4 shooting. I would advise against trying to figure out anything about how Jeff is going to play next game and just enjoying his performance tonight.
Odds and ends:
-Aside from Robinson, Xavier's bench was good for 0/4/0 on 0-4/0-3/0-0 shooting in 26 minutes. Grim.
-Xavier had 6 first-half turnovers and 2 second-half turnovers.
-Charlotte was 5-20 from deep, including 0-6 from Javarris Barnett.
-X was down 25-19 on the glass at the half but rallied to end the game down just 36-33.
-Aside from Braswell's 11-15, Charlotte was 13-44 (.295) from the floor.
(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.)
-"I'll watch as long as I can take it."
-"Kenny has 1 board and 1 bucket. Now 2!"
-"[Kenny] is playing like a man!"
-"Kenny 5, Them 5."
-"Just saw your brother on press row."
-"Giving up uncontested trey balls... again."
-"Big Kenny two more!"
-"Tu has no game going today. Down six."
-"BK finally gets the ball and scores."
-"Down 4, 6 to go. BK has 9 and 7."
-"Down 11! Booing at Cintas."
-"Got to have Kenny in the middle, forget the fouls."
-"Where is Dante when you need him?"
-"Wells finally makes a play. First score for him."
-"BK finally touches it and promptly scores."
-"Wells to Walk, sweet."
-"As an aside, X has graduated all seniors since '86."
-"Rob with a baseline jumper?"
-"Leaving now to go coach your brothers. I'll finish the game up when we get back."
-"8-15 FT. Sorry."
-"Cover the three, again. Briscoe 2 in a row."
-"Lyons with an ill-advised three, but it went in! Gangsta?"
-"Man, that was a scrum. Are the refs still there? Uncalled for with 3 working the game! They shouldn't take the pay if they're not going to work."
-"Get the ball to Kenny."
-"Get him the ball! He just made two FT!"
-"Finally the lead with 5 to go."
-"Davis for Tu? I'll take my chances with Tu and four fouls."
-"Kenny, a board and magic! The airplane was about to come out, but it turned into a TD call."
-"You cannot underestimate the value of Walk to this team. He is whatever glue they have."
-"Too bad this Tu didn't make the trip to Saint Louis."
-"18 and 12! What a game!"
-"Why couldn't they do this all year? They were down 14!"
-"Seniors came up big. Now we have to play A-10 tourney ball and get to the big dance."
There it is, sports fans.
I'll wrap Dad's Take when he gets back. Dad's take is in the bag. Xavier locked up the first-round bye for the A-10 tournament with the win tonight. Stay tuned for Brad's coverage of Senior Day from press row at Cintas.