Any of the rest of you guys kind of in a stupor? Watching Xavier on a tape delay capped off a delightful Thanksgiving for most of us here in the best possible way. Xavier started the game in something akin to their own stupor, and actually trailed with seven minutes left to play in the first half. While that may not seem all that alarming, it was the first time all year that Xavier had been down after 13 minutes had elapsed in a game.
San Diego couldn't sustain that pace though, because they simply couldn't grab a rebound. The Toreros managed all of seven boards in the first half. Coming into the game Xavier needed to be able to control the glass, and they did. James Farr (5/10/2) made up for failing to score by grabbing six rebounds, Matt Stainbrook (14/9/8) grabbed five of his own, and Brandon Randolph (6/3/2) had all of his boards in the first stanza. That limited the Toreros to a grand total of two second chance points and forced them to shoot the lights out to even stay in the game.
Even that may have done it for San Diego, who did shoot 54% on the game, if Xavier's offense hadn't continued the incredible run that they are on. The Musketeers are now eighth in the nation in offensive efficiency and shot .580/.500/.667 for this game in racking up an efficiency rating of 129.5 for the game. At some point, this quits becoming an offensive outburst and just becomes a great offense at work. I'm not sure if this team is there yet, but they are getting close. The Musketeers ripped off an 11-0 run after trailing and led the game 39-31 at the half.
San Diego didn't go away though, which leads to the other thing that is starting to become a team identity rather than just a disturbing trend: bad defense. This was the worst defensive game the Musketeers have played. The Toreros effective field goal percentage of 66% was the worst that Xavier had allowed to a team not named Creighton since the 15th of December, 2007. That Arizona State team managed to turn their incredible shooting into a win, and very soon this season a team better than San Diego will as well. Much as it was last year, this season's team is just getting gashed from behind the arc. SDU made 12 and, just as importantly, took 23. Opponents are now shooting 39.6% from deep against Xavier. That number will either go down, or the Musketeers will start losing.
That didn't happen today though, because Xavier just kept upping the ante whenever San Diego went on a run. The game drew as close as two with 12:35 to play, but Xavier went another 8-0 run just a minutes later. JP Macura (11/0/1) went on a 1:26 binge in which he took all of his shots and scored all of his points. The last of that burst of unfettered scoring came on a three pointer from the corner in which Macura's momentum carried him all the way behind the bench. That shot was particularly impressive in that Macura caught the ball with his eyes fixed on the rim and never even bothered to look to see where he was going to land.
After that, the Toreros never came back within double digits as Xavier finally put the game to rest. Trevon Bluiett (17/3/1) carried the most of the load the rest of the way. Johnny Dee of San Diego tried admirably to haul his team back into the game, but he couldn't. Once again, Xavier simply scored their way to a win. Once again, they raised serious questions about whether their defense will allow them to keep doing that.
- How does the lineup set? Coach Mack managed to keep anyone from playing 30 minutes as he spread the playing time all across the team. Stainbrook, Farr, Bluiett, Dee Davis, Remy Abell, Brandon Randolph, JP Macura, and Jalen Reynolds all logged double digit minutes without anyone playing an excessive amount. Myles Davis didn't play at all as a consequence of poor off court decision making, but should be back tomorrow.
- Who controls the pace? Xavier dominated on the glass 33-18 for the game, so the pace was theirs to dictate. As a result, the 63 possessions were the fewest of the year and San Diego never really got out and ran like they would have preferred.
- Who is fit to go? Only Myles Davis wasn't available, and Xavier went 10 deep with Sean O'Mara and Edmond Sumner (or "Summer", according to the announcers) both recording some minutes. With three games in four days, it was vital to keep miles off the legs early, and the Musketeers did just that.