In a must-win game, when you have a player lead the team in points, rebounds, and assists, you might think he would be the player of the game. Today, you would have been wrong. Stainbrook led the team in all three of those categories, and we'll get to him in a moment, but today's game ball goes to Semaj Christon.
Last time these two teams played, Bryce Cotton went for 25/3/7 on 8-19/3-8/6-8 shooting and slowly took the game over late. Today, Cotton had the ball with Providence down 2 and less than a minute left on the clock. As Cotton went into his move, Christon relieved him of the basketball and took off the other direction, driving to rim before laying it to a trailing Isaiah Philmore for an easy dunk. Semaj was charged with guarding Cotton all game, and he held the Providence star to 9/4/7 on 4-11/1-2/0-0 shooting and forced him into 3 turnovers. On the other end, Christon was good for 12/2/3 on 3-8/0-0/6-8 shooting while adding 2 steals and only turning it over once. With a huge win on the line, Semaj gave the team everything he had, and it was enough.
With 8:30 left, Cotton had just hit a jump shot to cut the Xavier lead to 52-48. From there on out, Xavier's defense took over, zipping up Providence to the tune of 5 points on 2-13/0-4/1-2 shooting with 2 turnovers. Both of the Friars' buckets came on second-chance points off of a scrable for a missed bucket; they simply could not get anything going as Xavier made clutch stop after clutch stop down the stretch. Never during that time did Xavier have more than a two-possession lead, but the defense came up huge and simply choked Providence out of the game.
Back to Matt Stainbrook, who told the press after the game that sometimes "you have to be the Hungrier Howie." The Stain Train had 13/9/5 with a steal and only one turnover on 6-14/0-0/1-2 shooting. His shooting line wasn't great, but it reflects his unwillingness to back down from Providence seven-footer Carson Desrosiers and some questionable officiating from maybe the worst squad we've seen all year. Other than that, this was a vintage Stainbrook performance, as Xavier was able to run the offense through the low post and get baskets off of the ensuing ball movement.
Your friend and mine Good JMart was here for Xavier today, which frankly facilitated everything else the Muskies did. If he isn't getting buckets, Xavier needs more scoring from Christon, which means saving his energy on defense by moving him off of Cotton, and who knows where that ends up. Martin had 13/3/2 with a steal and a block and only one turnover. Just as importantly, he was engaged in the game from the first moment to the last and was consistently aggressive on the offensive end even after a cold start. Teams have to respect Martin for Xavier to be a viable force, and he made Providence do so today.
Isaiah Philmore did not start today for reasons Coach Mack did not deign to tell me personally, but he came off the bench and made an impact on the game. His 8/8/1 from the pine were accompanied by his usual borderline-violent approach to interior positioning, and inconsistent officiating was not enough to even slow him down. He is a bull in the paint. His persistent effort was a large part of putting Providence forwards Kadeem Batts and Tyles Harris into foul trouble, and that had a hand in short-circuiting the Friars' offense late.
Myles Davis hit a three and had a couple of nice moves to the rim off of shot fakes on his way to 7 on 3-5/1-3/0-1 shooting. Dee hit a pair of nice floaters but got a little floater-happy at times, leading to a shooting line of 2-6/0-1/0-0. He did have 4/1/4 with a steal and only one turnover while spending a lot of time handling the ball. Finally, it was nice to see Jalen Reynolds back in action today, and he had one basket (a monster dunk) and 5 defensive boards. His athleticism gives Xavier another dimension in the front court, and Coach Mack clearly liked what he was getting from the freshman big man today.
Odds and ends:
-James Farr only got 5 minutes but grabbed 2 boards in the that time.
-Moving Semaj to Cotton had the effect of putting Dee on the 6'5" Josh Fortune, and Fortune responded with 17/8/3 on 7-12/3-7/0-0 shooting, which wasn't ideal.
-Xavier had only 6 turnovers today, which was a huge improvement from their recent performances.
-Xavier only put Providence on the line 7 times, which was a) a huge improvement for the 30 they did last time these two played and b) a big deal against the best FT shooting team in the country.
-The Muskies ended the day with 16 assists on 23 made buckets.
-Xavier did not rebound well posting an OReb% of 22.9% and a DReb% of 66.7%.
-X held Providence to 53 points on 59 possessions, or .90 PPP.
That's all from my end. My dad was visiting his mom today, so he has the game on DVR. He'll be thrilled, I'm sure. Brad will be back with the narrative recap, and all three of us will converse in the Sunday Conversation. X is back in action in the barn where Butler plays on Tuesday. Be well.