When it came down to it, 2014 ended not with a bang, but a whistle. Xavier and Georgetown rang in the new year doing what they had done for the final minutes of the old one, shooting free throws. The teams combined to be called for 30 fouls (and commit maybe half that) in a second half marred by the stylings of Karl Hess and his usual attempts to make he and his crew the center of attention. As per the norm, that turned the game into a complete slog and broke up any chance for a free wheeling or fast moving game. Until there is some sort of referee accountability, games like this will continue to drag their way through our consciousness. There is no reason a game with 40 minutes of clock time should last as long as a baseball game, but this one did. Somewhere, though, Hess and his compatriots watch the highlights convinced that the Cintas was packed on New Year's Eve to watch them.
That will be the last said about the abysmal officiating (which was bad both ways, by the way, no shouts of bias here), because Xavier fans are once again celebrating a new year with a win. The Musketeers were never quite irrepressible last night, but they played what was probably their most complete game of the year. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera will never fully be held in check, but Remy Abell did as well as anyone will all year. Josh Smith was relegated to nothing more than a 400 pound roadblock by the activity of James Farr (9/10/1) and Jalen Reynolds (17/4/1), and Dee Davis (12/2/5) realized that mad dashes into the lane were probably not the best form of offense.
Xavier actually led by 11 a quarter of the way into the game. James Farr crashed home a dunk on his way to a vital and confident looking seven early points and Xavier looked like a threat to run away and hide. Instead, the Musketeers went 0-6 from the floor and Georgetown closed to 23-20. Xavier didn't founder completely though. Jalen Reynolds scored, Matt Stainbrook (8/7/1), who looked ill all night, knocked in a quick four and the Musketeers weathered the run to take a 31-25 lead to the half.
The Hoyas came right back to start the second half, though. L.J. Peak, Smith, and Smith-Rivera combined to make it a 32-31 game with the Musketeers holding on to a one point lead. At this point, with the foul parade already firmly engaged, the crowd got behind the black clad home team. Xavier has had to answer questions about defense and mental toughness all season, and they started to answer some of those last night. Seven minutes later, the lead was only Xavier by two, but the Musketeers were giving the impression of a team starting to come to grips with the game. In the second half the Hoyas went 8-24 (33%) from the floor and turned the ball over eight times as the Musketeers kept up the defensive intensity from the first period. Xavier, meanwhile, was a bloodless 19-22 from the line to keep the pressure on Georgetown to score consistently.
Finally, the dam broke. Xavier went on a quick 8-0 run behind four from Stainbrook and two each from Jalen Reynolds and Trevon Bluiett (4/1/1) and the lead was 10. From then on, it was a procession from one end to the other (interrupted only by a horrible technical on Reynolds) until Xavier buried the game with an 11-1 run late. The offense was still efficient, posting a 110 rating for the game and scoring 1.11 points per possession, and the defense finally came to play, limiting the Hoyas to a .362/.154/.680 shooting line and .84 points per possession. Finally, the Musketeers played a complete game. 2015 is off on the right foot.
- How do Stainbrook and Smith match up? In an eating contest? I'd go with Smith. In basketball? Stainbrook is the clear choice. For whatever reason the touch fouls being called on the perimeter didn't extend inside, but a visibly sick Stainbrook still more than held his own. Smith will always be one of those "if only" guys, and last night was another demonstration of that. Smith is clearly talented, but until he gains some discipline he'll only be a really fat guy who can play a bit.
- Who guards DSR? Remy Abell (12/0/1), who else? That left Dee Davis on L.J. Peak but Peak only managed six despite the advantage. Myles Davis (8/3/2) also took shifts on both players and more than held his own. DSR will get his, but Xavier at least made him work for it.
Xavier's Myles Davis is one of the most improved players in the Big East and his defense stood out vs. Georgetown. Active hands and ENGAGED!— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 1, 2015
- Which bench will produce? Xavier got 23 points from the bench, most of them coming from a Jalen Reynolds who was finally able to stay on the floor. Myles Davis provided the rest, and JP Macura (0/1/0) chipped in 13 minutes that were more productive than his line will indicate.
Tweet of the game:
@BannersParkway on tv that foul on remy was laughable.— John Cassidy (@Southpawhuck13) January 1, 2015
That pretty much sums it up.