In the preview, Brad mentioned that Villanova is a decent three-point shooting team that loves to lift early and often from deep. They did exactly that against a Xavier team that looked entirely unprepared for that to be the Wildcats' strategy. All credit to Nova for making shots, but they were shooting way too many uncontested three-pointers. The Musketeers looked flat and listless at home against Seton Hall and lost a winnable game. Today, Xavier was much the same, but they were playing in the home gym of a top-ten team, and they got run off the floor.
Turnovers were again embarassingly ubiquitous for X. The Muskies turned the ball over 11 times in the first half alone. Despite the fact that they held Nova to just 28 in the first period, they could not take advantage due to their own profligacy. Xavier only turned it over 3 times before the bench emptied in the second half, but by then they had stopped playing defense to any meaningful extent. This is a team that - after dropping three straight games - is completely adrift right now.
Semaj did his best to keep Xavier in it, but he was overwhelmed down the stretch when Villanova started throwing two or three defenders at him whenever he had the ball. His line of 17/2/4 with a steal and 2 turnovers on 6-15/1-3/4-5 shooting doesn't really reflect his contributions to tonight's game. There were large stretches of basketball where he was the only thing Xavier had going on the offensive end, and both he and Villanova knew it. He tried to put the team on his back, but that's hard to do at the #6 team in the nation.
Matt Stainbrook was the other Musketeer who came to play tonight. He had 14/11/1 with a steal and 2 turnovers on 6-10/0-0/2-3 shooting. Nova knew he was turning to his right shoulder to shoot with his left hand, but his footwork was tight and he was able to score over the defenders the Wildcats ran at him. Once again, Xavier's biggest problem with Stainbrook's productivity was getting the ball to him. With nobody consistently on the floor consistently shooting well, the defense was content to swarm Stainbrook and Christon and dare the rest of the team to beat them. They couldn't.
We discussed in the Sunday Conversation that Xavier needs three players to not suck to beat anyone and four to not suck to beat a good team. Tonight, everyone other than Semaj and Stainbrook was subpar. Justin Martin came the closest, but he only got 15 minutes due to foul trouble. His game line of 13/2/0 even flatters him, because he got five of those points after what should have been his fifth foul was inexplicably called a block. His shooting line of 4-7/3-4/2-2 is nice, but Xavier needed a third scorer on the floor during a lot of the time during which Martin was pinned to the bench with foul trouble.
Isaiah Philmore worked really hard, grabbing 9 boards, including 4 on the offensive end. Sadly, he shot 0-4/0-0/2-2 and turned the ball over 3 times to end with a line of 2/9/2. Villanova had to look out for him on the glass, but they never had to respect him in the flow of the offense. Dee Davis was 1-7/0-3/0-0 for a line of 2/1/4 with 3 turnovers. None of that is what Xavier needed tonight. James Farr had 6/1/0 on 2-3/2-3/0-0 shooting, but he was continually disoriented on defense to the point that Coach Mack couldn't go to him until the team was just desperate for buckets. Myles Davis shot 1-5/1-5/0-0 and doesn't bring anything else to the floor. Nobody - nobody - was able to step into the vital role of a third viable player, and Xavier completely dissolved defensively and got chased out of the gymnasium.
Odds and ends:
-Nova shot 11-28 from behind the arc. Xavier is the worst three-point defense team in the league, and they are getting lit up every night right now.
-X had 14 assists on 20 made buckets, which is good.
-Muskies were 11-14 from the line, so... yay.
-"This is ugly early. We have 5 TO already."
-"Farr just hit a three and looked a little more confident."
-"We are getting beaten in every facet of the game."
-"They are hustling and we're just standing around."
-"We're not putting a body on anyone [when the shot goes up]."
-"Martin on the floor for ten seconds and gets his third foul."
-"Semaj is playing, but no one else got the memo."
-"JMart has reappeared. I can't figure him out."
-"Okay, now the original Martin is back with his fourth foul."
-"They may as well take Randolph out because he will not shoot."
-"Myles can't hit a thing."
-"Villanova is getting every loose ball."
-"I don't know what Coach Mack is thinking when he leaves Randolph and Myles out there."
-"22 to 8 run after Martin went out. We are bad at both ends tonight again."
-"Our full-court press is turning Bell into a superstar."
-"That's the worst beating we have taken in a long time. We got outplayed in every facet of the game."
-"Let's get home Saturday and see what we do against Providence."
That's it from me. Frankly, my dad is a lot more positive about the Providence game than I am. Going into our second trip through the conference, I think we need to go at least 5-4 again. Basically, we have to beat Providence on Saturday, have to win @Butler 2/11 and against DePaul 2/19. Find two wins in the other six games and we're still above water. Finding those wins, however, seems like a really tall order right now.