With exactly 15 minutes left in the game, Markel Starks hit a wide-open layup to put Georgetown up 53-36. What happened next was a comeback for the ages. First, the offense sprung to life as Xavier scored 28 points in the next 8:23 to cut the lead to 1, but DSR answered with a jumper at the other end to make it 67-64. Then the zipping up began. Over the final 6:14, Xavier forced Georgetown into 0-8/0-2/0-3 shooting. That's it. There were no turnovers, there were no gimmicks. Xavier mostly stayed in their half court man defense and completely choked out the easy looks the Hoyas were getting early. Xavier rode that defensive intensity to a stunning 44-14 run over the last 15 minutes of the game to turn an embarrassing home loss into an incredible comeback win.
The key player in tonight's game for X was Dee Davis. With 10 minutes left in the first half, Dee grabbed his second foul and was banished to the bench for most of the rest of the period. During that time, Georgetown went on a 23-9 to put X in the hole. After just 2/1/2 in the first half while Georgetown's guards did whatever they wanted to on offense, Dee put up 15/0/5 on 4-4/2-2/5-5 shooting in the second half and was part of Xavier's increasingly effective defensive effort during that time. When he wasn't getting buckets or making life hard for his opponents, he was running around encouraging his big men to keep their heads up as the officials let the game beneath the basket turn into a brawl. Nobody had as big an influence on tonight's turnaround as Xavier's diminutive junior.
Partly because of the violence of the game and partly just due to an off night, Matt Stainbrook was having all kinds of trouble scoring the basketball. He functioned as Xavier's facilitator for much of the game, however, passing out of the high and low posts to the tune of 7/8/6 on a woeful 2-10/0-0/3-4 shooting. I love the big guy too much to expound a whole lot on his game. I'll say this for him: 4 of his 8 defensive boards came in the last 3:45 of the game. You can't kill a game with defense unless you can kill possessions with boards, and Matt had a nose for the ball down the stretch.
Semaj once again did his thing tonight. After struggling to crack the zone in the first half, he ended the evening with 18/4/1 with 3 steals and only 1 TO on 9-12/0-1/0-2 shooting. Only picking up his fourth foul with nine minutes to go kept him from doing more damage as Xavier was successfully increasing the tempo of the game in the second half. Semaj ran the high post and the short corners against the zone in the second half, and his ability to find space led to some buckets for him. When your top player can get 18 points while only shooting 12 times, it really opens things up for the team.
Coach Mack compared Isaiah Philmore to an old baseball glove in his post-game, but I'm sure he meant it in the nicest way possible. This was Philmore's kind of night once he realized anything went underneath the rim. Despite tweaking a knee late in the second half (he was well enough to come back in, so I'm guessing it wasn't bad), he 14/0/5 on 4-7/0-0/6-7 shooting. All 5 of his boards were offensive, including grabbing his own missed two-handed scoop shot with 1:14 to go and laying it back up. Words failed me briefly at that point.
Xavier showed a little bit of depth tonight, which was comforting after a couple of listless performances from the reserves. JMart started and shot a Bad JMart 3-10/2-7/2-2 but had a Good JMart 10/7/2 with a steal and a block. At this point, I've got no problem with the young man just continuing to hoist. Who knows what might happen. Myles Davis had only 3 points on 1-4/1-2/0-0 shooting, but his lone make put Xavier in the lead for the first time in the second half. Finally, James Farr had 9/6/0 on 3-6/1-2/2-2 shooting, added a steal and a block, and allowed Coach Mack to space the floor against the zone in a way he couldn't with Philmore and Stainbrook both out there. When he hit his 3 was when you could feel the momentum just begin to shift, and his energy off the bench was big in reshaping the game for the Muskies.
Odds and ends:
-Xavier was 18-22 from the line, which continues a trend of mostly excellent FT shooting in conference play.
-Georgetown was 10-18 from beyond the arc; Xavier's perimeter defense is on the brink of becoming An Official Problem.
-17 assists on 28 made baskets (60.7%) for X with just 7 turnovers. I'll take that any day.
-Brandon Randolph has a long way to go on defense.
-"Still in Mansfield, so I won't be watching the game. I have Byron and Joe."
-"Can't find the bucket."
-"Gotta get the ball to the high post."
-"On to Marquette."
-With Xavier down 51-36 at the 16:40 mark: "This one is over."
-"Dee dropping bombs and dishing dimes!"
-With four minutes left: "I just got home for the exciting conclusion."
-"Way to hustle, JMart!"
-"Defensive intensity was the difference. Even when you're cold shooting you can still play D."
-"Six minutes without a FG for Georgetown. I never doubted we could do it."
-"16-0 run to end it! I can hardly believe it."
-"A less loyal fan might have thought it was over in the second half. It was my tough love that brought them back."
That's it from me. Brad will be here with his narrative recap tomorrow. All the best, sports fans.