Growing up I had sat in a church and listened to a pastor who occasionally mutilated a saying or simply created one out of thin air. A particular favorite of his was "at the opposite end of the other spectrum" which was intended to mean something equating a complete 180 degree turn. I have the feeling that if Pastor Hart had watched Xavier over the last three days, he'd have to invent something even more emphatic. The team that dismantled Creighton disappeared completely and all the good feeling they had built is now completely gone.
The big story from the game, though, isn't the loss in the standings, but the loss on the roster. When Matt Stainbrook (2/3/1) hit the floor with 8:02 left in the first half, he did so screaming in pain. The big man lay on the floor, weeping quietly into a towel, for some time until he was helped off. Initial reports are inconclusive and an MRI has already been scheduled. The injury was so instantaneously devastating that's its hard to picture the Stain Train back in uniform for quite some time.
It might be cliche to say the scene of their extroverted leader being helped from the court took the fight out of the Musketeers, but it's difficult to find another explanation for one of the most dismal halves of basketball Xavier has mustered all year. The team compiled a grand total of 20 points, went 8-27 from the floor, and trailed by 12 when it was all over. The team was clearly reeling, and they were getting pounded by a Seton Hall squad that desperately wanted to finish a game in the way they hadn't against Creighton.
In the second half, Semaj Christon (28/1/3) took over. He scored 11 points in the first three minutes of the half and drew the Musketeers back with five. Semaj was everywhere in that stretch, handling the ball in a manner reminiscent of the way LeBron did when he played with the Cavs. The burst wasn't enough though, because Seton Hall ripped off six quick points of their own to push the lead back out to 11. In that run Xavier fouled a jump shooter, turned the ball over, and missed two three pointers. It was a microcosm of the night in a two minute section of play.
Xavier committed a plethora of stupid mistakes in this game. Dee Davis (9/3/2) committed a turnover by throwing the most obvious forearm in the history of the game into a trailing defender. Justin Martin (7/5/0) took two steps after he released a pass so he could have the pleasure of plowing over a stationary Pirate, and Isaiah Phimore's (11/9/0) charge at the end pretty much ended the game as a contest. Those fouls could probably all be excused as players trying to hard, but the same could not be said of James Farr (2/6/0).
With Xavier pressing late in the game and desperate for a way back, Farr was tasked with being the last man on the court to prevent easy chances at the rim and let his teammates have a chance to recover should the press be broken. With Xavier back within five again late thanks mostly to the heroics of Christon, Farr ended up face to face with a driving Fuquan Edwin. James just kept backpedaling until the foul he inevitably committed occurred after one of his feet had already landed on the baseline. God and James alone know why he didn't follow the simple basketball fundamental of stopping the ball, but he didn't. The very next possession, Farr did the exact same thing, without the added error of the foul. After a blazing start, the fact that the sophomore swing four cannot defend anyone has slowly eroded his playing time and his value to the team.
And so that is pretty much that. Xavier never got over the hump, Semaj was amazing, and Matt Stainbrook seems to be badly hurt. All momentum is out the door, and Villanova is the next team on the schedule. Welcome to March, it was great a day ago, now it sucks.
- Can Xavier play three point defense? "Seton Hall beat Xavier earlier this year by stretching the defense out and getting up 22 three pointers. If they hit that number again, X is in trouble." I'm quoting myself here partly because I'm obnoxious and partly because I think the 8-21 Xavier allowed this game wasn't as bad as it looked. The defense was much more active, was higher on the floor, and actually forced 16 turnovers for a 22.9% rate. Yes, the Pirates got off 21 three pointers, but a handful of those were complete heaves. The defense isn't there yet, but it wasn't dreadful tonight.
- Is JMart finally for real? Poof. Gone. After exploding against Creighton, JMart didn't start tonight because of discipline issues and then managed a truly uninspired 7/5/0 on 3-10 from the floor. He still looked incredibly cool doing it, but that's a lot less endearing when nothing is falling and your team is getting trounced by Seton Hall. A 30 point game must be in the offing here soon.
- Can Xavier make some three pointers? No. Xavier is middle of the pack (35.4%) from deep since conference play started, but they are starting to feel like a team heavily dependent on two guys to carry the perimeter load. When Dee and JMart aren't hitting from behind the arc, and they were 2-11 tonight, the team doesn't get going. Myles Davis hit the freshman wall and then apparently had it fall on him, James Farr is so short on confidence right now that his shot mechanics have visibly changed, and Semaj is wise to just keep picking his spots. X was 3-22 tonight. That's how you lose games.
- Stainbrook's reaction to his injury was difficult to watch. I am not a Dr, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I would be stunned if he played another minute this year. Hopefully, it was just intensely painful at the time and ice and rest will work their collective magic.
- I mentioned above that I didn't think the defense was that bad tonight. Efficiency wise, it came in at 101.7, just slightly worse than the 100.9 against Creighton and certainly much better than the morass of early February. Baby steps.
- Offensively, this was the third worst game the team has played all year.