A week after looking composed in holding off a second half run of an SEC opponent on the road, Xavier did the exact opposite against Auburn tonight. Gone was the cool calm with which they dispatched Missouri, and in its place was a meandering, helter-skelter second half performance that was equal parts shocking and frustrating. After leading by 14 points with 15 minutes left, the Musketeers simply let the foot off the gas and needed a heroic 5-point swing the the last 40 seconds to even force overtime.
The story of the night for Xavier was Remy Abell, upon whom they rose and, eventually, fell. With JP Macura unable to shake off sickness, Edmond Sumner now an afterthought until next season, and Dee Davis struggling with foul trouble all night, Abell was forced to carry more of the load in the backcourt scoring department for X than usual. He was not greatly aided by the off and on performance of Myles Davis, or the uncharacteristically inefficient game suffered by Trevon Bluiett. However, for 45 minutes, when the bell rang, Remy was adequate to the task, taking home 18/1/1 with 5-11/2-4/6-7 shooting. His leadership and consistency were intangible aspects that were praised when he transferred in from Indiana, and they came to the fore tonight, as he scored or assisted Xavier's last 9 points of regulation, including two bloodless free throws with 3 seconds left. However, the 35 minutes of regulation he played took their toll and, after scoring 4 of Xavier's first 6 points of OT, he was 0-4 with 2 fouls and a turnover. Abell wore himself out for the cause tonight and, although his play faltered down the final stretch, it is impossible to say Xavier could have gotten there without him.
Underneath the basket, Jalen Reynolds took advantage of one of the most strangely (to put it nicely) officiated games of the year to ride to 16/6/0 on 7-9/0-0/2-3 shooting. Auburn had no answer for Reynolds in the first half, as he ripped off 9 points, but only 7 minutes of playing time in the second half despite being one of the few Musketeers not in foul trouble saw him shoot only 3 times over the 20 minutes, turning it into 5 points. He scored his only shot of OT, a stickback of a Bluiett miss, and provided a massive block on an Auburn breakaway, but was limited in his touches, and thus his effectiveness was hampered.
One player who did have his chances but couldn't buy a basket or a call was Matt Stainbrook. He was a monster in the first half, with 4 points, 3 assists, and 8 rebounds, but as Auburn center Cinmeon Bowers came to the fore (red:got away with everything but felonies) in the second half, Stainbrook's own productivity faltered, ending his game on a befuddling "letting a guy climb you" call with 11/12/3 on a rather poor 2-9/0-0/7-8. There have been better nights for Matt in an X uniform, and there are almost sure to be better ones to come, but the game hinged in the paint, where Auburn had a 10 point advantage and were able to corral 3 more of their own misses after the break.
Trevon Bluiett was uncharacteristically off tonight as well, still bringing a line of 16/7/5, but needing 3-11/2-6/8-8 to get there. He bailed himself out at the line on more than a few occasions, but did not hit a field goal after his 3 pointer with 14:31 left gave Xavier a 14 point lead, their biggest of the night. In a game where he might have made his first signature touch to Xavier lore, the shots wouldn't fall for Trevon down the stretch, and he was left frustrated, like many Xavier fans, by the end.
Odds and Ends:
- Dee Davis wasn't much of a factor, getting 9/1/0 in only 18 minutes before fouling out. In a contest that saw several scrums under the basket see nothing called, it is hard to imagine Dee isn't chapped about a couple of his fouls.
- Myles Davis started well, but didn't bathe himself in glory in the second half- he had 4 of Xavier's 10 turnovers in the frame- before burying another clutch three with time waning. He then played all of overtime without accumulating a single stat. There were several times where a kick to him could have been an option, but with tiring legs, Xavier failed assist a basket in either of the extra periods.
- Speaking of assists, 15 on 28 made baskets isn't a bad number, but the 16 turnovers that went with them will be sure to raise Coach Mack's ire.
- Brandon Randolph only turned it over once in 35 minutes today. While he didn't do a lot of scoring (5 points on 2-6/1-2/0-0) he also didn't throw the ball away at some of his previous rates, which was good to see.
- James Farr, what the heck?
That is it for me. Check out what promises to be a lively Sunday Conversation tomorrow, where we discuss holidays, and probably how the crap we just blew a 14 point lead in 15 minutes.