If this game had gone differently, we might have woken up the #Semagic hashtag. If anyone else had shown up, or if Xavier had defended better, or if any number of the possible factors that could have led to a Xavier win had come to pass, we might have gone to bed dreaming of a heroic effort on the road from Xavier's incredible guard. Instead, Semaj's 28/1/3 with 3 steals on 9-18/1-3/9-11 shooting more or less went to waste. Semaj had 5 turnovers, but that number is deceptive. As the second half wore on, he was the only player Xavier had who was producing at all; it was just a productive for him to dribble into a quadruple team as giving it up would have been.
Other than Semaj, it was an exhibition of all the things that have hurt Xavier all season. They allowed Seton Hall to hit 6-12 from behind the arc in the first half. They turned the ball over 14 times, often short-circuiting potential comebacks by giving Seton Hall free possessions and easy points. Furthering the damage of the loss was Matt Stainbrook going down with a left knee injury early in the game. From that point forward, Seton Hall's big-bodied forward Eugene Teague had his way in the middle. Teague's 17/8/1 on 6-8/0-0/5-6 shooting actually understates the damage he did.
To his credit, Isaiah Philmore battled all night despite having to man the center position at times and fighting foul trouble. He ended the game with 11/9/0 with a steal and a block. As Xavier tried to claw back into the game, it was Philmore's work on the offensive glass that helped Xavier get points out of what would have otherwise been empty possessions thanks to missed three-point baskets. The impression he left on the Muskie faithful will be of that last turnover via offensive foul, but Xavier's underappreciated warrior in the post was a big reason they were close enough for that to matter in the first place.
It's fun to abuse the coach after a loss, but I thought Coach Mack did an excellent job tonight. Seton Hall was hitting threes in transition in the first half, and that has more to do with awareness and hustle than coaching. At a certain point, players just have to play good basketball. On offense, Mack rallied the troops after the half by moving Semaj to the high post. Christon did his dead-level best to win the game by himself, but it wasn't quite enough. That brings me to something that is starting to look like a problem for this team...
Xavier's three-point shooting is extremely inconsistent and sometimes downright poor. The Muskies have looked bad against zones because they can't shoot teams out of them. When that happens, the zone gets tighter, there's less room to score around the bucket, and the rebounding area is already packed with opponents. After Semaj's 1-3, X had Dee go 1-5 and JMart go 1-6 from behind the arc. More worringly, Myles Davis was 0-4 despite seemingly believing the next one was going to fall and James Farr was 0-3 and was passing up wide-open looks at the tin when Xavier desperately needed three. Whether it's the misfiring gunner with a world of confidence or the pick-and-pop four who has lost his, the Muskies need someone to step up and be able to jar a couple from deep. Relying on Dee and JMart to be able to do that every night isn't going to make for a successful run in either upcoming tournament.
That's pretty much it. I won't frustrate you or myself by putting up the lines of the other players; just know that X only had two double-digit scorers. There were only 7 assissts on 20 made buckets. Everything was wrong for Xavier in the half court, and a loss is the result.
Odds and ends:
-The Muskies went to a press late and ended the night with 11 steals; we might see more of that if Stainbrook is out.
-Jalen Reynolds picked up 4 fouls in 14 minutes of play.
-Players other than Semaj shot 11-36/2-19/10-15 for Xavier.
-That was incredibly frustrating. Going to be hard to carry momentum into the Big East tournament now.
-"Semaj is smooooooooooooth."
-"Why did Myles start? Where is JMart?"
-"MD's stroke is all messed up."
-"We need offense."
-"Stain Train is down; not good."
-"We can't afford to poo the bed against these stiffs."
-"We look weak inside without Stain Train."
-"Semaj with 7 in 1:45."
-"Semaj is hot; he may have wanted to do a little of that so we didn't go down by 12 in the first half."
-"Myles is just broke."
-"Stand around, watch Semaj dribble. Stand around, watch Semaj go one-on-one. Play lacukluster defense. Repeat."
-"Down 5 with 5 to go. Still over."
-"Dee has a clean stroke from the line."
-"Any word on Stain Train? Call Mario!"
-"Words fail me. Swept by Seton Hall."
That's it from my end. Brad will have his recap posted once he edits the profanity out of it. We'll also be back tomorrow with a look at what the other bubble teams did tonight. Rest up for Nova, and light a candle for the Stain Train.