What happened: UMass 77 - Xavier 72
Sorry about the delay, but that was as depressing as it was predictable. One of the good things about the new wave of statistical analysis in basketball is that the numbers can tell you things that your eyes wouldn't necessarily pick up. One of those is that three-point defense is far more accurately measured by the percentage of their shots you allow your opponents to take from beyond the arc rather than their success rate (if you want to nerd out on the numbers, read this and this and this). While that seems like a weird way to open a recap-style article, anyone who watched the game knows that it is pertinent to what went down today.
As Brad pointed out in the preview, there are basically two facets to UMass's offense: Chaz Williams and chucking a ton of three-point shots. With foul trouble limiting Williams to a total of 22 minutes in the game, everybody in the gym knew it was going to be an absolute three-point barrage from the Minutemen if Xavier let it happen. In the first half, Xavier let UMass take 42% of their shots from deep (national average is about 33%). In the decisive second half, the Minutemen took 48% of their shots from beyond the arc. With Williams going for 6/1/4, the only thing that could hurt Xavier is if they let UMass take a ton of shots from deep and UMass got hot. Both of those things happened, and you saw what the result was.
With the game again coming down to the wire, it was again business as usual from the line for Xavier. Their 19-29 mark was good for 65.5%, right on their season average. In a nip and tuck game, having a couple of extra points in your pocket can be a huge mental boost. Xavier once again failed from the line, and it did them no favors down the stretch tonight.
One guy who was good from the line was Semaj Christon. He went for 17/2/6 with 3 TO and a steal on 5-12/0-0/7-8 shooting. Semaj was once again frustratingly fixated on trying to get his own shot at times, but he wasn't entirely to be blamed for that. On a day when nobody from Xavier had an unimpeachable offensive performance, I'm going to go ahead and cut the young man some slack, especially since he was 7-8 from the line.
Isaiah Philmore was about as close to good as anyone for Xavier on the offensive end. His 14/7/0 line with 1 TO was let down by his performance from the free throw line in posting a 5-7/1-1/3-8 shooting performance. His missing his first five free throws at a time when Xavier should have been pulling away was especially vexing. Philmore began the season looking a lot like someone who is bad at basketball, but he has really come on strong during the second half.
Travis Taylor was good at almost everything today, going for 10/8/1 with a block on 4-7/0-0/2-4 shooting. This would usually be where I would excoriate Semaj and Dee for not getting the ball inside enough, but Taylor had 5 turnovers on the day. He is normally very sure-handed and a reliable ball distributor, but he treated the ball today like it was covered in hot oil. When one guy has almost a third of the team's turnovers, you can be forgiven for not feeding him.
With Dee still getting back up to speed, Brad Redford played 29 minutes and made the most of them. He had 13/3/0 with a steal and a turnover on 4-7/3-5/2-2 shooting. He also had a shot blocked by a guy who didn't even jump to do it, but you take the good with the bad. UMass' defense wasn't as disciplined as others have been in tracking Redford, and he made them pay for it with his deadeye outside shooting.
Odds and ends:
-Justin Martin continues to look completely out of confidence on the offensive end, getting his 9 points thanks more to his 4-4 from the line than his 2-6/1-4 shooting elsewhere. X desperately needs him to shake it off.
-JRob had 6/6/0 on 3-8/0-0/0-0 shooting and continues to insist on shooting mid-range jumpers despite being the tallest guy on the floor.
-Xavier had 14 of their 17 offensive rebounds and 13 of their 17 second-chance points in the first half.
-X also had 10 assists on 24 made buckets, which is a poor rate.
-What else is there to say? Xavier now has almost no chance of grabbing a first-round bye and will need four wins in four days in Brooklyn to grab the auto bid.
-"We were doing some housework and picture hanging, so I couldn't just sit and watch. My impressions: lost Taylor in the second half again; rebounded well again; poor defensive effort; officiating was iffy. Red tried hard. New pictures look really nice. Later, dude."
There you have it. It's Saint Louis coming into the Cintas Center on Wednesday as Xavier tries to regroup for the A-10 tournament.