Xavier's usually crisp offensive execution once again hit the skids outside of the friendly confines of the Cintas Center, and the Muskies paid for it with a loss. Xavier started off sloppy with nine first half turnovers and two more in two possessions to start the second half. They only turned it over four times in the final 19 minutes, but they paid for their profligacy late in the game. By the time the offense warmed up, the defense went to bed, as a DePaul team that started 1-7 from behind the arc finished on a 9-13 stretch from deep. This is a loss that should not have been, but the seeds were sown in Xavier's poor execution.
The game was lost in the last 11 minutes of the first half. Matt Stainbrook hit a layup to give Xavier an 18-9 lead with 11:01 left in the half and X looked like they were going to run away with it. From that point on, the team shot 2-8/1-3/5-6 and turned the ball over 7 times to enter the half clinging to a 28-26 lead. Home or away, you have to be able to bury an inferior opponent when you have the upper hand, and Xavier has shown no ability to do that this year. It continues to cost them games.
Trevon Bluiett snapped out of his slump in a big way in the second half, recovering from a scoreless first to finish with a line of 19/12/1 on 6-15/4-10/3-4 shooting. His performance in the first 20 miuntes was abysmal, but it was his shooting at clutch times that kept Xavier in the game late. His defense is still a work in progress, but he's hardly alone in that.
DePaul effectively doubled Matt Stainbrook out of the game, holding him to 5/8/2 with 2 turnovers on 2-3/0-0/1-2 shooting. I feel bad picking out any one player for poor performance, but Matt had trouble finding the open man in a scoring position out of the double team and instead had to lay off to whoever was around. Part of that goes down to DePaul's defensive scheme, but there were a occasions where Matt simply couldn't find the skip pass he needed.
Dee Davis... on the one hand, he went for 9/4/7 on 3-7/1-4/2-2 shooting and had more than twice as many assists as turnovers. On the other hand, his turnovers came early on overtly poor decisions and he missed three shots in the final minute of the game where a neutral observer may have wondered why he was trying to take it over instead of feeding his teammates. Dee has always been a mixed package on offense, but you would have hoped to see the decision making be a little more productive in his senior year.
Myles Davis rescued a poor night by executing from the line, shooting 2-8/1-4/9-9 on his way to 14/0/3 with a steal. His problem continues to be the defensive end, where he is one of a cadre of Xavier players that seems to delight in giving up dribbling lanes to the basket. I know that's not the case and I know these kids are trying hard, but the pattern of not being able to contain anyone off the dribble continued today as Billy Garrett gashed the defense for 15/5/10 on 5-7/2-2/3-5 shooting.
Jalen Reynolds got a start and posted a quiet 6/4/0 on 3-4/0-0/0-0 shooting. DePaul came in as one of the worst interior defenses in the nation, but they doubled the post hard today and Xavier never found a counter for it. This Muskies team has the firepower to make it work from inside, but they seemed to give up on the post awfully early against a team that has a pattern of folding when forced to defend inside.
Odds and ends:
-James Farr was sick today, just in case anyone was wondering why he barely played.
-JP Macura had 6/1/0 on 2-5/1-2/1-1 shooting.
-DePaul's Forrest Robinson - a 6'10" backup center - scored a career-high 17 on 6-12/4-9/1-1 shooting as big men with range continue to destroy Xavier.
-Let's end on a good note: Xavier was 18-22 (81.8%) from the line.
Join us tomorrow as we try to have the Sunday Conversation without barfing in our mouths.