What happened: Xavier 93 - Abilene Christian 65
It took long enough, but Xavier finally pulled away from an overmatched Abilene Christian squad for a win with a convincing score line despite feeling very unconvincing most of the way. A different kind of shooting was the story for each team, as Abilene used the three ball to stay close but falling behind when their long shots weren't falling. They ended the game X-XX from deep and Xavier seemed content to let them lift at will. In the meantime, Xavier was once again miserable from the line. The Muskies finished 21-36 from the stripe despite James Farr and Jalen Reynolds combining to go 11-12. If Xavier doesn't figure it out in a hurry, this is going to cost them a game.
I can't talk about free throws any more. James Farr was himself again, doing his thing to the tune of 14/8/0 with a steal and 2 blocks and no turnovers on 5-5/0-0/4-4 shooting. He had at least four of his buckets on sitck backs off of Semaj Christon misses and was generally irrepressible on the glass in his 19 minutes. Jalen Reynolds was almost as good, going for 11/7/0 on 2-2/0-0/7-8 shooting. They were both relentless going to the offensive glass, and that effort bore dividends for them tonight. Their combination of length, athleticism, and aggressiveness makes them difficult to contain individually, to say nothing of in tandem.
Matt Stainbrook was similarly opportunistic, putting up 9/10/5 with 4 steals and 4 blocks and just 1 turnover on 4-4/0-0/1-3 shooting. As his numbers attest, he is a back-to-the-basket big man who can also move to the high post and let the offense run through him. Other than a very early turnover, he was reliable in terms of making good decisions with the ball and executing them with aplomb. If he can continue to do this against high-level opponents, Xavier would do well to not abandon the post on offense as they have been prone to do in the past.
I'm not sure how to feel about Semaj's game tonight, so I'm going with "not thrilled." Xavier talismanic point man put up 17/3/6 with 2 turnovers on 7-15/0-0/3-5 shooting. Despite the superficially satisfactory nature of his line, he seemed to be forcing the ball to get his shots throughout the game, especially considering how well Xavier's big men were playing. On a night when getting the ball inside was almost a guaranteed bucket, it probably would have behooved him to throw it to the post a little more and drive into traffic a little less.
I amsure how to feel about Myles Davis and - my dad's deluge of "Birth of the Cool" related puns aside - that is good. Xavier's freshman shooter buried 5 of his 7 three-point attempts on his way to 15/3/0 in 23 minutes. He was doing a very good job of finding empty space on the floor, and his teammates were doing a good job of rewarding him for it. He's not going to shoot 71.4% from deep all year, but he can continue to make it rain if his team continues to give him the opportunity to do so.
It was basically all about the forwards for Xavier tonight, though. The Muskies outrebounded Abilene Christian 45-21, blocked 7 of their 29 two-point attempts, and shoot 13-14 from the floor. That's just dominating, which is what they needed to do against a smaller, weaker side. This one was never going to be a nail-biter, but it was Xavier's big men who turned it into a laugher.
Odds and ends:
-Justin Martin was 1-5 from the line. He had nine points, but come on, Justin, make your free throws.
-Dee Davis had 3/0/3 in 16 minutes, struggling with foul trouble all game.
-Xavier had 18 assists on 33 made buckets, which isn't bad. They also only had 8 turnovers, which isn't bad.
-Parker Wentz was 2-5 from deep. Turns out he's a different guy than the bassist for Fall Out Boy, so sorry for mis-reporting that in the preview.
-"2-5 FT. Off to a great start."
-"Semaj out of control and the ball goes in. Choose lucky."
-"Farr looks much improved this year."
-"We keep playing patsies and Stainbrook will be an All-American."
-"I need to play the lotto today; Semaj just hit 2 FT."
-"We are playing to their level."
-"Oh good up 8 at the half against this powerhouse squad."
-"I don't think we're going to win by 60."
-"Farr is rebounding like a monster."
-"That Randolph kid is F-A-S-T."
-"Reynolds receives the ball at his chest, turns and puts it to his knees. Drives me nuts; everyone is 2 feet tall!"
-"Stain with the oop to Reynolds. 4 assists for the Big Guy."
-"How can we not shoot FT? It's embarrassing."