What happened: Xavier 73 - Duquesne 65
This game almost came down to the first seven minutes of the second half. Leading by seven at the half, Xavier promptly came out and wet down their leg to start the second period. With 12:54 left in the game, Xavier had seen their lead not only disappear but turn into a ten-point deficit. In that span, Xavier's offense went 2-8/0-3/0-2 with 2 TO and looked to the post only once. Duquense went 7-9/3-5/4-5, and that one missed free throw turned into an offensive rebound and stickback. That all added up to a 21-4 run that got the literally dozens of fans at Duquense on their feet and threatened to completely end the game.
Fortunately, Xavier refused to fold. More fortunately, they were playing Duquense. Xavier flipped the switch back on and finished the game on a 36-18 run. Isaiah Philmore was a huge part of that for the Muskies. As Xavier clawed back into it, he went buck nasty on his way to 16/6/0 while showcasing the skills and fire that have often been missing from his career for the Muskies. Four of his boards were offensive, and his shooting line of 4-7/0-0/8-12 was efficient to say the least. More impressively, he grabbed a long defensive rebound and busted out a sprinting spin move on the dribble to make it into the lane with the man behind him forced into a flagrant foul to stop the big man's rumble to the tin.
Justin Martin had 11 and 5 in the first half on his way to 15/8/0 on 6-9/1-2/2-2 shooting. Martin scored Xavier's first seven points and definitely came out differently than he has in any game since his concussion. Though his second half numbers weren't impressive, he stayed present in the game, forced Duquesne to defend him, and played hard on the defensive end. This one was definitely a win for JMart, and he needs to keep it rolling for Xavier.
Travis Taylor was once again a monster on the boards, ending up with 13/12/2 on 5-7/0-0/3-8 shooting to show for his 35 minutes on the court. There are only two things that can stop Taylor from being effective right now. One his abysmal performance from the line. Today's 3-8 drops him to 58% on the year. The other is his teammates' unwillingness to continue to feed him on the post. As a senior, Taylor has demonstrated a great feel for when to kick out from the post and when to get his. Duquesne had no answer for Taylor on the post, but getting the ball to him did not seem to be a priority to the Musketeers, even during their slump at the beginning of the second half. For this team to move forward, they need to feed Trav on a consistent basis. Even when he doesn't attack, the offense is more effective working inside out.
Semaj Christon had 16/7/8 with a pair of steals, a block, and only one turnover. The problem with Christon's line was that it took him 5-14/1-2/5-6 shooting to get there. With Xavier's post players scoring at will, Christon would have been better served feeding the ball inside rather than trying to get it going on his own. His performance from the line is certainly encouraging; Coach Mack shared that Christon was 96-100 from the stripe during shootaround last night. All in all, this was another fairly valuable performance for Xavier's freshman PG.
This was, in the end, a game of runs. Duquesne came out 14-7. Xavier answered with a 26-8 run of their own. The Dukes straddled the half by going 25-4 while Xavier stood there and watched. Then Xavier woke up and ripped off a 28-10 stretch of their own. After that, the teams each scored eight points in the final 80 seconds. If Xavier had been playing a better team, that 25-4 into the beginning of the second half would have buried the game. This one will go down as a win for Xavier, which they desperately needed, but there are still some meaningful cracks showing in this team. I had hoped for more out of this game.
Odds and ends:
-Xavier's point guards combined for 11 assists and only 2 turnovers.
-Justin Martin picked up Xavier's 10th turnover with 15:58 left in the second half. That was Xavier's final turnover of the game.
-X had 9 assists on their first 11 buckets and 4 assists on their next 13.
-The Musketeers held Duquesne to just 8 fastbreak points; Xavier had 14 fastbreak points.
-The team was 22-34 from the line. Better, but not good.
Dad was on the road so his take consists of just the following:
-"Not pretty but still a win. It was nice to listen to Joe and Byron."
-"Crummy game against a crappy team."
-"We don't have enough scholarships to cover all of our needs."
That's it from me. Xavier is back in action against Fordham on Wednesday at Cintas. Stay tuned for Brad's narrative recap and the Sunday Conversation tomorrow.