This game was all about Jalen Reynolds. He had plenty of hype surrounding him coming in this season, but after a year off he had trouble shaking off the rust. Today, he shone like burnished silver. With Matt Stainbrook hampered by foul trouble and Isaiah Philmore not moving well, Reynolds exploded for 17/16/0 on 7-12/0-0/3-3 shooting. He hit jumpers, he scored on big finishes, he showed finesse around the tin; most importantly, he didn't foul everything that moved. I can't even begin to explain how impressive Reynolds was or how pivotal his performance was to Xavier's win today. If he is putting it all together, he suddenly becomes the answer to a lot of the questions that were lingering over Xavier.
Semaj wasn't super-efficient, ending with a 5-14/0-1/5-5 shooting line, but he did a lot of little things that came up big for the Muskies. With Stainbrook getting called for a foul every time he exhaled, someone needed to fill the gap on the boards; Semaj took it upon himself to be that person. He was the team's second-leading scorer, rebounder, and assist man on his way to 15/7/7 with 2 steals and 2 turnovers. St. John's is a team that gets theirs by running and jumping, and Semaj was able to run and jump just a little more than his opponents today.
Matt Stainbrook, as we may have mentioned, had some serious trouble with fouls today. When he was on the floor, though, St. John's couldn't stop him. Because the Johnnies have multiple shot blockers, Coach Mack started with Philmore over Stenger to move a St. John's forward away from the rim. Isolated one-on-one, he had his way with whoever St. John's put on him in the post. He ended the game with 13/2/0 and 2 steals on 6-7/0-0/1-2 shooting, and he could have had a lot more were it not for that pesky rule that mandates you leave the game after five fouls.
Dee Davis's line was superficially sketchy, as he went for 6/0/8 with a steal and 2 turnovers on 1-6/1-4/3-4 shooting. The line you really need to look at to understand Dee's impact on this game, though, is D'Angelo Harrison's. Dee was tasked with guarding St. John's leading scorer, who came into the game averaging almost 18 points per game. After Dee got done with him, he left with a line of 4/5/4 with 3 turnovers on 1-11/0-5/2-2 shooting. Davis has had his troubles with large, physical guards, but his work on Harrison was impeccable tonight, and it was a big reason why the Muskies were able to pull away down the stretch.
Defense was - finally - a theme for Xavier for the whole game. St. John's defense was capable of giving Xavier fits, so it was going to be incumbent on X to hold the Red Storm in check. In giving up only 23 second-half points on 10-30/0-9/3-6 shooting with 8 turnovers, the Muskies did all that and more. I have to give some credit to Brad here. In the preview (link at the bottom of the page), he predicted that Xavier would be able to pack the defense in against St. John's and force long jump shots. In fact, on the game Xavier held St. John's to 53 points on what I'm calculating to be something in the neighborhood of 67 possessions. Xavier desperately needed the W tonight, and they zipped St. John's up in order to make it happen.
Odds and ends:
-Seriously, Jalen Reynolds.
-Myles Davis didn't score, but he did pull down 4 rebounds.
-JMart completely disappeared to the tune of 3/2/1 on 1-4/1-1/0-0 shooting. That three came at a big moment, though.
-St. John's blocked 7 shots today to go with the 7 they blocked last time these two played.
-Xavier played good defense, but it helped that St. John's can't shoot the basketball very well.
-"The dark uniform is not slimming on the Stain Train."
-"With Phil off his game and Farr vanished, we are hurt for bigs."
-"Turnover after turnover."
-"Reynolds is becoming an irritant. Just tap it in, for crying out loud!"
-"Stenger, Phil, and Myles. Not going to get a lot of scoring from that trio."
-"Nothing is easy for this team."
-"Phil is no good to us if he can't make FT."
-"How can they let the half end and not call a foul? That dude, disguised as another dude, was mugging Semaj!"
-"That sutupid hedge just cost Stain Train his third foul. End the madness!"
-"JMart has been quiet."
-"This is not good to watch. We are so inconsistent. Still stand around too much on offense."
-"Might as well bring Stainbrook back; we are stinking without him."
-"Dee for 3!"
-"Semaj is smooth."
-"Reynolds has that dude sealed; they have to get it to him."
-"Oh, like that! Nice entry pass."
-"Phil is causing me stress."
-"We just plain turn it over too much to beat a good team."
-"15 and 15! Monster game."
-"Dee has shut that guy down! Even though he gives up some size, he is tenacious."
-"Great win! Wasn't pretty, but it was good. Reynolds was outside his mind. Man, if he could keep that up..."
That's it from me. Stay tuned for Brad's narrative recap and the stirring second segment of our search for the packline defense. Creighton is up next, though I have to say today's result took a little bit of the pressure off of that one.