Have you ever been to an open gym that went a little bit longer than the participants were prepared to go? The basketball becomes sluggish, sloppy, and uninspired. Effort comes in spurts, especially on the defensive end, as two teams without too much pathos run up and down the court hoping the other will quit first. If you've experienced that but didn't tune in to watch Xavier today, now you know how much of Xavier's 73-70 loss looked.
I could read the box score to you and occasionally do, but there's only one stat you need to know from this game. You know it, I know it, and Coach Mack knows it.
.@CoachChrisMack: "We’re getting roasted on the perimeter right now and it’s not just Long Beach. It’s a lot of teams that we’re playing."— Shannon Russell (@slrussell) December 1, 2014
Mack: "The ball just seems to be going in on the other end of the floor way, way, way too much from the 3-point line." #Xavier— Shannon Russell (@slrussell) December 1, 2014
Xavier was 2-16 from behind the arc while Long Beach State was 10-22. LBSU was led by Mike Caffey, who shot 8-14/5-8/3-4 on his way to 24/4/3. You can't give up an extra 24 points from beyond the arc and have any reasonable hope to win the game unless you're dominating other parts of the floor.
To Xavier's credit, they did just that in many regards. The Muskies had 31 defensive boards and 14 offensive boards and posted superior rebounding percentages to Long Beach State in each phase of the glass. Their 12 turnovers were in line with their excellent performance in that regard all season. They were 12-13 from the line, which is sensational.
Only Matt Stainbrook had what you would characterize as a good game; he went for 19/12/1 on 8-12/0-0/3-4 shooting. He recognized that Long Beach State was not sending help to the post and abandoned his usual ball-distribution game in favor of attacking the defense and scoring baskets. Xavier's talismanic big man was not the reason that the Muskies lost this game.
What was the reason was a complete inability to defend the arc in the second half of the game. Xavier actually carried a three-point lead into the half after having led by as many as 10 with 2:45 to play in the first. From that mark forward, LBSU was 10-13 from deep. From down 10, the 49ers were up 4 in less than 7 minutes, having gone 6-7 from behind the arc during that span. After that, they answered every Xavier attempt to take the game back over.
When Edmond Sumner gave X a 46-45 lead with 12:23 to go, Branford Jones answered with a three. When Matt Stainbrook made it 52-49 Xavier with 8:40 to go, Branford Jones answered with a three. After Xavier got consecutive stops to carry a one-point lead past the seven-minute mark, Michael Caffey hit a jumper and then a three. Xavier battled back through Myles Davis and Matt Stainbrook to go up one with four minutes left; Branford Jones answered with a three. After that point, Xavier never got back closer than down two as the Muskies couldn't quite execute enough on offense to keep their porous defense afloat.
I said yesterday in the comments section that this team would suffer some frustrating losses due to an inability to get stops, and today was one of those times. In 40 second-half possessions, Xavier gave up 48 points. For a team that was really struggling to hit three-pointers, jumpers, or basically anything that wasn't a layup by Matt Stainbrook or a free throw, that was the difference in the game.
These was the kind of game that can really take the air out of a fan base. I'll leave you with some words of encouragement from the players themselves.
But I still believe in my team and wouldn't trade these guys for anybody!— Myles Davis (@_mdavis15) December 1, 2014
We win some, we lose some, but all that matters is how we react to adversity. We WILL bounce back. #Team93— Trevon Bluiett (@TrevonBluiett) December 1, 2014
James Farr said that you can't get too high on your wins or too low on your losses and to not count the team out, but his account is locked so I can't embed his tweets. That feels like a fitting end to this weekend.