For the life of me, I don't know why Xavier didn't throw the ball in to Matt Stainbrook 40 times this game. Despite limited touches, the Stain Train rolled for 20/6/1 on8-9/0-0/4-6 shooting. To say that there was nobody on the Stephen F. Austin squad who could guard him wouldn't be even approaching hyperbole; he was often taller than anyone they had out there by a good four inches. He ate whenever he touched the ball, but - in a game that the didn't put away until late - Xavier was content to let their biggest asset battle for position without being rewarded for it.
We saw both the best and the worst of Dee Davis tonight. His line of 9/1/12 with 3 steals is superficially guady, but it came with 5 turnovers and 3-8/1-2/2-4 shooting. The anamolously touchless display from the line aside, what was really vexing about Dee's preformance was how needless his turnovers were. He would set the offense 30 feet from the bucket and then try to pick out back cuts into the lane with bounce passes. It wasn't working. He did a good job at pushing the pace and getting the ball to the right place in transition, and his overall production is commendable, but he did just enough to leave most Xavier fans watching a little frustrated.
On the other hand, freshman sensation Trevon Bluiett continues his metronomic production, going for 16/3/0 on a blistering 6-8/2-3/2-2 shooting. His production comes in the flow of the offense so seamlessly that you think he's had a quiet night until you look up and he's got a dozen with ten minutes left to play. He has handle, range, strength, and the ability to score with either hand at the rim. I'm going to keep telling myself that he'll have some hard nights just by virtue of being a freshman, but I'm finding it more difficult to believe every game out.
You would think being tall and athletic would lead to success in basketball - especially against a short team - but Jalen Reynolds and James Farr went out of their respective ways to confound that notion. Farr went for 0/6/1 on 0-2/0-1/0-0 shooting and basically disappeared with half an hour left in the game. Reynolds had 4/8/0 with 2 blocks but shot only 1-4/0-0/2-2 and was once again hamstrung by foul trouble, picking up four of them this game. Both guys have the ability to be a force on the floor for Xavier, but neither can currently be counted on for steady production.
With 5:44 to go, it was still anyone's ballgame. Xavier was defending like it was more of a hobby than a passion and Stephen F. Austin had just cut the lead to 66-61. From that point on, SFA shot 1-10/0-5/0-3 and turned the ball over twice as Xavier closed the game on a 15-2 run. This team has a long way to go on the defensive end, but that's expected of a squad bringing in seven new players, six of whom have never defended on the D1 level before. In that last 5:44 though, we got a glimpse of the old meanness and a game went from in the balance to in the bag. You might even say it had been zipped up.
Odds and ends:
-Remy Abell had 12/2/2 on 6-8/0-1/0-2 shooting and is developing into a sneaky effective offensive player.
-JP Macura was the only freshman other than Trevon Bluiett to play; he had 7 on 3-6/0-1/1-1 and there is nothing sneaky about his offensive effectiveness.
-Brandon Randolph had 6/5/2 on 3-5/0-0/0-0 shooting and was mostly excellent in running the offense in the half court.
-Xavier had 22 assists on 33 made baskets; LOVE IT.
-Xavier was 11-18 (61.1%) from the line; don't love it.
-Stephen F. Austin missed their last 8 three-point attempts and still finished 10-25 from behind the arc.
That's it from me. I'll leave the highlights for Brad to run in his recap tomorrow. In the meantime, keep an eye peeled for WestCoastD'Artangan's caf brunch questions and - if you're a student at X - consider getting on the #BusToBloomington.