Last season, there was a book on Xavier. Make Matt Stainbrook pass, force Semaj Christon to shoot jump shots, and watch the offense derail. To say Xavier could be handled might be a bit much - they made the tournament - but keeping them from exploding was a matter of staying focused on the defensive end.
With seven new guys forming an array of attacking options, the team that we just watched roll over Missouri is different. Coach Kim Anderson said that they were trying to limit Stainbrook and felt like they had done a good job of it. Indeed, at the half both Stainbrook and Trevon Bluiett were without a made field goal.
Instead, Xavier turned to Brandon Randolph. With the Muskies up 10-5 early, he slid into the eye line of a penetrating Dee Davis and did this:
The next time down the floor, Remy Abell found him in the same spot on the floor:
I'd like to say Xavier took that eleven-point lead and ran away with it, but Missouri battled back. Bouyed by a raucous home crowd - and 15 points off of 17 Xavier turnovers - the Tigers cut it to five at the half and then one with 19 minutes to play.
With the game turning back into a contest, Remy Abell made a layup. Mizzou answered. Abell made another layup. Mizzou answered again. Xavier pushed the lead to seven, but Missouri cut it back to three, forcing Coach Mack to use a timeout. Then, in the span of a minute and a half, Xavier got two stops and ripped off seven quick points, turning a one-possession lead into a double-digit margin.
Still Missouri lingered on the fringes, holding the game close enough that a run of their own would make crunch time nervous for Xavier fans. Then, with the shot clock running down, Myles Davis took the air out of the building:
After that, the game was a formality, and Xavier sauntered to a 74-58 final margin despite not scoring or really even trying to in the last 1:52.
Dee Davis played a starring role all night, pulling the strings for an offense that was unusually sloppy at times. While the rest of the team seemed focused on finding whoever was open regardless of which team he was on, Dee only turned the ball over once on his was to 17/4/4 on 6-9/1-3/4-4 shooting.
This game showcased Xavier's strength in depth. Matt Stainbrook and Trevon Bluiett combined for 14 points on 4-9/0-2/6-6 shooting, and the team as a whole turned the ball over way too much. Whenever someone had trouble with fouls or ineffectiveness, the next man was there to step up. Xavier ultimately had 30 points off the bench, shot 8-18 from deep, and held the opponent to 1-16 from beyond the arc. The Muskies can head into finals week feeling good about their first #roadkill.