When Cleveland native and CBSSports Network sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked Coach Chris Mack what needed to change in the second half for his team to stay ahead, he mentioned that he did not enjoy watching his team get "punked" on the defensive glass. Seton Hall, and especially Angel Delgado, were outworking the Musketeers and taking the game to them. In the last 10 minutes, that changed as Xavier very notably increased the physical tenor of the game and demonstrated to the Pirates why they are so very difficult to beat at home. That physical play led to a 14-3 run that took Xavier past #19 Seton Hall and to 2-1 in the Big East.
The game to that point had played out pretty much as expected. These teams would have struggled to be much more evenly matched, and that showed in the early going. Both offenses sputtered at first. It took almost nine minutes for either team to reach double digits in points. Xavier led 10-8 at that point and extended that to a four point lead before Seton Hall ran out to a four point lead of their own. That lead was cut to one when Brandon Randolph (3/0/0) of all people knocked down his sixth three of the year, he's now six for nine. Shortly after that came the incident that finally really brought the game to life.
"I expected that. I could have called that before the game started. That's nothing new for either of us." - Myles on the foul from Gibbs— Rick Broering (@musketeerreport) January 8, 2015
Dee Davis (14/3/6) came up with a steal and sent Myles Davis (8/2/3) on his way in the other direction. As Myles gathered himself for the layup, Sterling Gibbs lowered his shoulder like a free safety and simply plowed the Xavier guard over. The referees consulted before awarding Gibbs a flagrant one for his efforts and Myles two free throws for his. Xavier turned the extra possession into a dunk from James Farr (8/0/0) off an assist from Myles, but the entire interlude was out of character for a game that hadn't been terribly chippy to that point.
Xavier stretched the lead to seven before entering the half with a five point lead. After the break though, the old issues emerged again. In 1:49, the game was tied again. Three times Xavier took the lead back, and three times Seton Hall tied it right back up. Seton Hall then took a two point lead, and Xavier leveled the game for 11th time. Seton Hall pushed the lead out to four before Xavier struck quickly to take the game away. Matt Stainbrook (8/9/2) made two free throws and then the Musketeers finally got the crowd going.
To that point in the game, Xavier was 1-13 from deep. That's massively out of character for the best three point shooting team in the conference, and it ended at the perfect time. First, Remy Abell (5/1/1) took a break from suffocating Sterling Gibbs to bury a corner three. On Xavier's next possession, Myles Davis took and jarred his fifth three point attempt of the game from directly in front of an appreciative bench. Myles paused for more than a beat before lifting three fingers on his right hand into the air on the way down the floor. Seton Hall called a timeout as the Cintas was suddenly rocking, but the damage was done. Xavier's 8-0 run gave them a lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
That's not to say that Xavier cruised to the win. Seton Hall closed back within one before a 12-3 run effectively ended their resistance. Try as Gibbs might, and he hit a couple of threes that defied logic, he could not shake Abell long enough to get a run of offense going an carry his team back into the game. Once again, Xavier put together a quality effort that led to another quality win at home.
- Who has momentum? Xavier led 10-8 after the first eight minutes of a game that was slow to warm up. That may have effectively stifled any good feelings the Pirates had after their huge win over Villanova, but it wasn't exactly a rousing response to any doubters who were worried about the DePaul result. Xavier once again struggled coming out after the half.
- Will Xavier finally look inside? Coach Mack was much happier with the way Matt Stainbrook posted and re-posted deep tonight. Still, the big man only took four shots and Jalen Reynolds (6/7/0) only took six. James Farr also took six shots, though two of his were vintage James Farr 17 footers. Good motion from the big men did open driving lanes for Trevon Bluiett (13/7/2) to exploit, and he very frequently did.
- Who will play point guard? Almost only Dee Davis, who was absolutely excellent tonight. Dee managed 38 minutes while his main backup, Brandon Randolph, only played four. It seems almost unfair to not dwell on the game that Dee played until down here, but he was exactly what Xavier needs from a point guard tonight. Randolph has been remarkably ineffective recently, but it was more the excellence of Davis that kept him off the floor tonight. Dee isn't going to play all but two minutes every game though, so someone has to step up.
Tweet of the game:
@BannersParkway that was right before the brawl game. We were all so young and innocent— XUfan2012 (@XUFan2012) January 8, 2015
XUFan2012 provides the perfect answer to when Xavier last beat a ranked team on the road.