What happened: Xavier 83 - DePaul 64
This was a game Xavier needed to win going away, and they did. There's not a whole lot to draw from beating a team as bad as DePaul at home (sorry, Oliver), so I'm going to tell you about a couple of things that are serious red flags for the Muskies going forward. The first was the sheer volume of three-points attempts for DePaul. The Blue Demons came into the game getting under 30% of their field goal attempts from behind the arc, but they took 22 of their 53 shots from deep today, for 41.5%. It doesn't even matter that they only made 7 of them. The Musketeers have given up too many clean looks from behind the arc all year, and they still have to play Villanova and Creighton down the stretch. Those teams will both bomb you out of the game if given a chance, and Xavier seems bent on giving opponents that chance.
The other thing that bothered me was Xavier's general sloppiness. Again, the game was dead and buried after about 25 minutes, but Xavier played like they knew DePaul couldn't beat them. A 21-38 showing from the line isn't going to get it done agianst a good team, and it's not like free throws are different against different opponents. The rest of the numbers look good - just shy of 70% DReb%, 35% OReb%, 13 turnovers against a team that was pressing all night, insane .643/.800/.553 shooting line - but I was hoping to see Xavier finish with some fire to carry over to the Georgetown game. Instead, they drifted disinterestedly to the finish. It's probably inconsequential, but it wasn't ideal.
JMart was basically the man tonight, going for 22/7/2 with a steal on an astounding 6-7/3-3/7-11 shooting line in just 28 minutes. Martin has posted double-digit points in 11 of Xavier's 13 Big East games and at least 6 boards in 9 of 13 of them. I'm still afraid he's going to disappear if I look directly at him, but he is growing into what Xavier fans have been waiting for him to be as a fourth-year player. Credit where it's due: you can't ask more of a player than JMart has given Xavier in conference play.
Dee Davis had another brilliant game tonight, putting up 17/2/7 with 2 steals and just 1 turnover on 6-7/4-5/1-2 shooting. What else can you really say about that? Dee was handling the ball against DePaul's press for a lot of the night, and he managed to avoid putting himself into bad situations. His alley-oop to Jalen Reynolds in the second half was an adroit display of what a calm ball-handler against pressure can make happen for a team. Of course, it didn't hurt that Xavier had the game salted away by that point.
Five of Xavier's thirteen turnovers were courtesy of Semaj, so I'll just get that out of the way off the top. Other than that, his line of 14/4/7 one 5-10/0-0/4-7 shooting wit 2 steals was more than acceptable. Christon occasionally gets into trouble trying to do too little; he plays within himself and gets teammates involved early to the extent that you're almost tempted to pull for him to force it just a little. He clearly knew the Muskies didn't need him to score tonight, and he did lead the team in shot attempts, but he never really forced his way into the game. Hopefully that's because he was saving his energy for the Georgetown game.
Matt Stainbrook was limited by foul trouble, but he went for 7/3/1 on 2-2/0-0/3-4 shooting. He didn't even play 20 minutes and collected four personal fouls, but he was more than effective when he had a chance to establish himself in the flow of the game. He, too, should have fresh legs for the weekend.
Xavier's defense was good but not brilliant tonight, giving up 64 points on what I'm calculating as 62 or 63 possessions. Depaul left some points at the line (19-28) and behind the arc (7-22). I know that's a little bit diluted by the end-of-game happenings, but there's a not too far-fetched scenario in which you can see DePaul getting a couple of decent rolls and making a game of it. I've been waiting for Xavier to zip someone up, but the Muskies haven't made that happen in a while.
Odds and ends:
-Tim Whelan got on the board tonight; he now has just 999 points to go to make the 1,000-point club.
-Isaiah Philmore had four shots blocked tonight; he makes me wish KenPom showed individual block percentages on offense, because it feels like he's always getting sent.
-Myles Davis had 3 assists and hit the only three he attempted.
Xavier is back in action @Georgetown at 11:30am on Saturday. Who comes up with these start times? Anyway, Brad will have his narrative recap up tomorrow, and we'll have all the game prep you could possibly hope for in the run up to that contest.