There is a story, probably apocryphal, about security guard who was killed by a boa constrictor. The snake had disrupted traffic at the resort the man worked at and, at the behest of other people in the area, he decided to take action. At first the guard did well. He and the snake stared one another down and made some opening moves, but then the man took control. He wrestled bodily with the snake, seemed to have triumphed, then draped the boa across his head and shoulders to drag it out of the way. Before anyone could process what was happening, the snake did what snakes do. Without much ado, it crushed its opponent at the apex of his powers and then moved on, leaving not much more than a warning behind.
When Georgetown took a 17 point lead with 15 minutes to play, they too must have felt like the fight had gone out of their opponent. Xavier had briefly rallied to start the second half but then had fallen victim to yet another barrage of three pointers. The Hoyas were rolling in the way that few teams that come into the Cintas ever do. Not since VCU unleashed HAVOC in the second half of a game last year had a team come into Xavier's home and made the Musketeers look so bad. When Nate Lubick whipped a pass to Markel Starks as he flashed wide open past Semaj Christon and into the lane, things looked very, very grim for the home side.
Things had gotten that way because of three numbers. 7-11. That's what Georgetown, a team shooting 33.2% from deep entering the game, went from behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR), Markel Starks, Aaron Bowen, and Reggie Cameron all made threes in the opening stanza, with DSR leading the way with three. The Hoyas shot 17-31 from the floor in that half, fought the Musketeers to a standstill on the glass, and made it four straight halves of basketball in which the previously vaunted Xavier defense had allowed 39 or more points. In front of the students for the first time in Big East history, Xavier went into the locker room down 13 to a team they really should have been beating.
After the break the Musketeers came to life almost instantly, ripping off a 7-0 run thanks to the effervescent Dee Davis (17/1/7) and cutting the lead to six in less than a minute and a half of game time. Georgetown punched right back with three straight three pointers, two from Reggie Cameron, and that Starks backcut to open up a 17 point lead on the back of an 11-0 run. With the Hoyas threatening to come in to the Cintas and slap the Big East back into recognizable shape, Xavier did what Xavier does.
To say that Georgetown got zipped up does not even begin to describe the enormity of what happened in the last 15 minutes of this game. Facing the marquee program of the conference, on the verge of turning 3-0 into 3-2, and looking for all the world like they were about to be dragged out of the way like so much unneeded refuse, Xavier simply crushed the Hoyas 44-14 the rest of the way. 44-14 isn't a comeback, it's not a run, and it's not finishing a game. It's holding an opponent down and destroying them in every conceivable facet of the game.
It didn't start like too much. Semaj Christon (18/4/1) made a layup, then Isaiah Philmore (14/5/0) scored a bucket and a free throw, and James Farr (9/6/0) drained a three that, according to Xavier commit Sean O'Mara, he said "three points, baby" as he let go. That made the lead nine and gave Xavier some life. A DSR jumper pushed the lead back to 11, but Xavier was warming to the game now and had it down to five within the next three minutes as Dee Davis and Justin Martin (10/7/2). By this point the home crowd could feel the comeback and all that was left for Xavier to do was to get over the hump and bury the game.
That too, took some time. The Hoyas didn't acquiesce easily and a great deal of credit has to be given to DSR and Markel Starks, who fought valiantly without a single minute of rest between them. Xaiver got as close as two but one of the two Georgetown guards kept finding ways to make a play. When DSR stuck another jumper with 6:14 to go, the Hoyas somehow still lead 67-64 and had held off a hard-charging for four minutes since Martin's three pointer. That jumper turned out to be the very last act of Georgetown defiance though, because Xavier simply clamped down even harder.
A minute later Matt Stainbrook (7/8/6) made a free throw to make it a two point game. After DSR missed a free throw James Farr, now chasing every loose ball like a man possessed, grabbed the rebound and threw a quick outlet to Dee Davis. Davis raced across the timeline and down the right side where Myles Davis (3!/0/1) ran a quick v cut and flare and came open in front of the Xavier bench. From the moment he let the ball go he knew it was dropping. Davis' celebration carried him across half court and his shot gave Xavier a lead they would not relinquish. Actually, it gave Xavier a lead that would go completely unchallenged. After the DSR jumper, Georgetown never scored again. The Musketeers wrested away control of the game and finished it off by going 8-8 from the line down the stretch.
Somehow, Xavier won by 13 a game in which it trailed by 17 in the second half. After Georgetown's three threes to open the half, they didn't make another, after a field goal with 6:14 to play, they didn't score again, after opening the game 21-38 from the floor, they finished by going 4-17. When it absolutely had to happen, Xavier's defense came back to life. With an offense that has scored 79 or more in four straight games and defense that suddenly regained its venom, the Musketeers look very difficult to beat.
- Can Xavier wear down DSR and Starks? Yes. This, by the way, is to take nothing away from the Hoyas two excellent guards. As a tandem they went for 37/8/8 and did it by playing all 80 minutes available to them. Operating without a frontcourt, they very nearly won the game. All that work wore them down though, and Xavier's depth told. Davis squared, Christon, and Brandon Randolph (2/0/0) split the load for Xavier which left the big guns with plenty in the tank down the stretch.
- Can Xavier stop someone? For 25 minutes, the answer was no. Xavier is now allowing teams to shoot a truly disturbing 46.2% from deep in conference play versus only 43.1% from inside the arc. So long as teams keep shooting like that behind the arc, they'll keep piling up points. On the other hand, the Musketeers allowed 14 points in the last 15 minutes, so things are trending in the right direction.
- Can someone stop Xavier? Not right now. This offense is just on fire right now and shot .491/.400/.818 in this game. Since conference play started the Musketeers lead the Big East at 76.2% from the line, which has gone a long way towards turning this offense into a truly explosive one. 44 points in 15 minutes was just fun to watch.
Xavier Musketeers (@XUAthletics) January 16, 2014
Tweet of the Game:
@BannersParkway the next half hour should be enjoyable for him.— Tom DeCorte (@TPD3) January 16, 2014
Tom's response to finding out I was watching the game on delay is a bit of an understatement. What a great 15 minutes of game time that proved to be.