Watching last night's Xavier game, you can be forgiven if you kept waiting for the run that would eventually fell the Musketeers. After starting down 3-1, Xavier had slowly and semi-efficiently pulled themselves to a lead that would grow to as much as 18. Still, it was hard not to believe that the knockout punch was going to come flying in and another road opportunity would go by the wayside. Sure enough, with 3:54 to play, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera cut the lead to seven with a driving layup and the Verizon Center crowd finally stirred to life.
That seven points represented Xavier's smallest lead since 8:32 to play in the first half. The Musketeers had finally come out of the gates with some defensive intensity and proceeded to put on a clinic in suffocating the life out of an opposing offense. In the first half the Hoyas scored 16 points, made only four field goals, and turned the ball over 13 times. Xavier's offense was hardly unstoppable, but it was more than adequate in putting the home team into a hole so deep they could not recover.
Key to that was the bloodless shooting of sophomore guard Myles Davis (19/3/5). Xavier had already built an 11 point first half lead when Myles caught the ball in the corner off of a Matt Stainbrook (12/4/4) pass. After burying that without a moment's hesitation, Myles started driving nails early by catching the ball in transition and jarring another three on Xavier's very next possession. Suddenly, the lead was 29-12 and, except for the sound of celebrating Musketeers and the bloviating of the dreadful Bill Raftery, the arena was silent.
In that first half Coach Mack went nine Musketeers deep, using his bench to great effect. That rotation may have been part of what enabled Xavier to hold a 19-14 edge on the glass despite the size disparity of a Georgetown team that occasionally four players 6-8 or over on the court. JP Macura (2/2/0) played seven minutes and grabbed two boards, Brandon Randolph (2/0/0) played two minutes and scored, and the rest of the usual rotation slotted into their usual places. Randolph's appearance was encouraging but, like a will o' the wisp, as soon as he'd shown himself he once again vanished. The first half ended with Xavier having allowed 42 points in the last 40 minutes of basketball.
That pace couldn't, and didn't, continue, but Xavier was ready for the Hoyas. As Georgetown turned up the offense to try the comeback, Xavier matched them. Most importantly, the Musketeers went an incredible 19-21 from the free throw line as the Hoyas defense grew increasingly physical. Only Stainbrook (4-5) and Trevon Bluiett (11/4/1 1-2) missed free throws in the second half. The five other Musketeers to make the trip to the line were completely perfect. Remy Abell (11/8/0) led the charge with ten points and defense that once again harried DSR out of his game.
Still, the Hoyas had come to withing seven with plenty of time to play and the Musketeers looked destined to throw all their hard work right out the window. On the next possessions, Bluiett and Stainbrook split their free throws as Xavier's offense briefly sputtered. The defense, though, did not. After cutting the lead to seven, Georgetown went empty on their next four possessions. A jumper from Stainbrook and a run out dunk from Remy Abell sealed the deal. Xavier withstood the mini Georgetown run and came away with a truly massive road win.
- How will Xavier matchup? There were times when the Musketeers were overmatched in terms of height, but Coach Mack spent a lot of time with a single post again last night. That was especially the case in the second half when Dee Davis (7/3/6) and Remy Abell never came out, and Bluiett and Myles Davis were both logged over 15 minutes. Stainbrook and Jalen Reynolds (2/5/0) split time as the solitary post over whom the four smaller players ran. For the second game in a row, the tactic worked very well.
- Can Xavier shut down the three point line? This is where the four over one really shows its effectiveness on the defensive end. The Hoyas still lifted 22 threes but a lot of that is down to Xavier's lead and the attempt at a comeback. What stands out is that those 22 threes were not of the wide open variety that Xavier had been surrendering when guards were forced to over-help to cover for beaten bigs. With more pressure on them and fewer great looks, Georgetown went 6-22.
- What is the rotation? It looks like Myles Davis has firmly supplanted the second big in Coach Mack's lineups. Myles has responded with games of 25 and 19, so that's hard to argue. James Farr (0/2/0) has been the most obvious victim of that and has logged only 22 minutes over the last two games. In those games Farr has racked a cumulative offensive efficiency rating of exactly zero.
Tweet of the Game:
A roadkill in black unis.. Real business like..— Tu Holloway (@SFFiveTu) January 28, 2015
So this one wasn't exactly to us, but it's hard to ignore.