"- Bury it early: There is really no reason for this to be a game or for Duquesne to think they can win it, but if Xavier lets them stay around who knows what can happen. Xavier has to start well and then avoid their surely patented eight minute second half scoring drought." That was one of our keys to this game and the Musketeers came out tonight apparently determined to do exactly that. After taking a bit to get their feet under them and trailing 14-7, Xavier tore off a 26-8 run that should have put the game to rest. Finally, after grinding battles with Charlotte, St. Joe's, Dayton, and Richmond, the Musketeers were on their way to destroying a lesser foe and enjoying a comparatively easy win. Semaj Christon (16/7/8) and Travis Taylor (13/12/2) each scored six, Justin Martin (15/8/0) scored seven, and even Isaiah Philmore was contributing a bit. Yes, this was the confidence builder Xavier needed.
With 12:33 to play in the game, Xavier had blown an 11 point first half lead and somehow trailed by 10. Semaj Christon was forcing shots, no one was feeding the post, and Xavier's offense had turned into watching someone dribble into a forced jumper. Compounding matters, a Duquesne team that should have been dispatched long ago now thought it had a chance. In conference, on the road, and facing a vastly inferior opponent, the Musketeers had failed to bury the game early and were on the precipice of paying a very dear price.
Elsewhere in the conference Charlotte had succumbed to VCU and George Washington had gone down to Butler. The five team pile for the final first round bye in the Atlantic 10 conference was thinning rapidly. A Xavier loss would have dumped them into four team tie at 5-4 with the top of league pulling ever so slightly farther away. This because a Duquesne team that rebounds as if allergic to leather and can only score by volume had grabbed 19 rebounds (six offensive) and put 26 points in a first half Xavier should have dominated. The four points the Dukes rattled off just before the half were only the beginning though.
After the Xavier high water mark of 33-22 with 1:22 to play in the first half, Duquesne went on a 25-4 run that the Musketeers seemed mostly apathetic about. In that stretch the Dukes grabbed 11 boards to Xavier's two, created four turnovers, forced Xavier into 2-10 from the floor, and dominated proceedings in every imaginable way. Xavier was, of course, mired in in a vintage 8:48 drought in which they managed only four points. Now, have blown their chance to bury the game early, the Musketeers were looking at getting run off the court by the worst team in the conference.
Thankfully, at least one Xavier player snapped out of it in time to save the game and possibly the season. After an Jeff Robinson dunk and a Semaj Christon runner pulled Xavier out of the swoon, Isaiah Philmore (16/6/0) decided to take the game over. He started things with a layup and then proceeded to score nine of Xaiver's next 14 points. More than that, Philmore ran the floor, crashed the boards, and played like a man who was not interested in losing the game. By the time he made two (!) free throws to cap his one man burst, Xavier had surge back to a 54-50 lead. The Dukes started to look for all the world like a very bad team that had run out of momentum.
Philmore's spree came in the midst, and was definitely the catalyst of, a 28-10 run that Xavier used to wrest back control of the game from Duquesne. As the Dukes faded down the stretch, Xaiver did something even more amazing than taking a nine minute break and still winning a game, they began to make free throws. Duquesne, evidently having watched some game tape, started send the Musketeers to the line with 1:58 to play in a 62-55 game. From that point on, Xavier went 11-14 from the stripe and salted the game away. Excepting two misses by walk on shot blocking sensation Landen Amos (0/1/0), the Musketeers were nearly perfect at the line when it mattered.
In all, this was not a game that Xavier fans will remember for ages. The Musketeers had an inferior team on the ropes and failed to put them away. More than that, they simply shut down for all basketball intents and purposes for nearly nine minutes. Despite that, the fire of Isaiah Philmore and the consistent excellence of Travis Taylor paid off in the end and Xavier went to 6-3 in conference play.
- Can Xavier win on the road? This will be a qualified yes. 1. This was hardly a road game. The Duquesne "faithful" failed to materialize and the game ended up being played in an atmosphere more befitting a game between two NAIA also-rans. 2. Xavier cannot play this game at any other venue in the conference and come away with a road victory. Duquesne is terrible at basketball, that's the only reason the Musketeers aren't 5-4 right now. Talk about heart and comebacks all you like, none of that matters if the other team is even halfway competent.
- Will someone make free throws? Yes! Finally! Things got off to a rather ugly 11-20 start from the line but the team finished on an 11-14 tear. Most importantly, Semaj Christon was 5-6 and made all four when the Dukes hacked him late in the game.
- Will Brad Redford reappear? No, not even close, so let's talk about Travis Taylor instead. Once again the big man was way too much for the opposition to handle in the paint and, once again, he didn't get nearly enough meaningful touches. Taylor went 5-7 from the floor and inexplicably didn't take a shot in the second half until only 6:13 to play. That means Xavier suffered through a nearly nine minute drought and didn't get their most consistent player even one shot. That's inexcusable. And Brad Redford was really bad.
Tweet of the game:
@bannersparkway Good, making sure i wasn't hallucinating there.— golfitup (@muskiefan3) February 10, 2013
In response to the Isaiah Philmore spin move.
Next Game: vs. Fordham, Wednesday, Feb 13th @7pm