Afterglow-noun: a happy feeling that remains after a successful or emotional event, the pleasant remembrance of a past experience, glory, etc.
Sometimes the morning sun seems to dawn a bit brighter, the first cup of Gevalia or Starbucks is just that little bit more loaded with caffeine, pretty girls smile more, grown men laugh, and the world seems like an altogether more pleasant place than it was a couple of days ago. Today, the reason for that feeling is the comprehensive beating Xavier applied to an upstart Dayton squad last night. Sometimes the natural order of things is restored in a moment so beautiful it colors the next day. In one of the program's most storied rivalries, Xavier sent a clear message about who, exactly, is now the power player.
If you looked only at the final score you can be forgiven for thinking that this was a laugher all the way through. The game was tied at two early on and Xavier never trailed after that, but that doesn't exactly tell the correct story of the first half. Xavier needed two big three pointers from Edmond Sumner (14/3/3) to hold off a Flyers squad that seemed to determined to turn this into a game. Xavier went 5-12 from behind the arc in that first half as they tried to keep Dayton at an arm's length.
Both of Sumner's threes pushed the lead back to 10 after Dayton had started to eat into it. The first made the lead 28-18 on the back of a 12-4 run with eight minutes to play. The lead was out to 13 with a minute and a half to go and it looked like Xavier was going to cruise off into the sunset. Defensive lapses prevented that from happening, as did another in a long list of bizarre officiating decisions. Trevon Bluiett (12/5/2) took a three that came off the side of the rim and almost directly into the arms of a hard charging Larry Austin Jr. (0/2/2). Larry carried the ball and some momentum into Scoochie Smith and both players briefly grappled for the ball. By February and in every other season of college basketball ever, play would have continued. Last night, though, Dayton went to the line and made it an eight point game at the half. All of the sudden, it looked like there might be a contest.
The fact that it never did turn into a game was due partially to the balanced nature of the Xavier attack. All five starters and JP Macura (11/1/1) were in double figures but only Bluiett took more than eight shots. He made five of the 11 that he took and the rest of the double figure scorers all only needed eight shots except for JP, who only needed six. A large portion of that was down the never-ending foul parade, but more on that later. Dayton came out of the half with renewed intensity and promptly turned the ball over for a Jalen Reynolds (11/5/1) dunk. Less than a minute later, James Farr (8/7/0) threw one down and Xavier led by ten.
And that would have been a great game. Xavier shakes off the Thanksgiving demons and defeats a heated rival by double digits to win a tournament. Everyone would have been happy. Dayton fans would have rued missed chances (like taking 75 either north or south) and Musketeers fans would have looked at a 6-0 team and begun to think about what could be this year. That didn't happen though, instead Smith cut the lead to eight and then the whirlwind descended.
A 21-0 run doesn't happen all the time. It was Myles Davis (12/6/3) with a layup and then James Farr with another. Then it was Farr again, and Farr again, and Trevon, and Myles, and suddenly it was a rout. The run ended after Sean O'Mara (9/5/0) scored and Kendall Pollard finally got Dayton back on the board. While Dayton was being zipped up to the tune of shooting 0-7/0-4/0-0 Xavier shot 9-14/3-4/0-3 to bury the game. Dayton had tried to keep it close, but the second half was a flexing of muscle. When it mattered, Xavier definitively demonstrated who the better program is.
There was plenty of game time after that, but no actual game. For once, the Musketeers didn't take their collective foot off the gas. They led by 29 at the end of the run, and 29 at the end of the game. Dayton spent the last 12 minutes looking as thoroughly beaten as a team can be. There was no attempt at a fightback, no act of defiance, just an acceptance that they were being destroyed by a squad that was clearly their superior. Dayton may yet earn a spot in the Big East and this great rivalry may (and I think, should) be revived down the line. For now, though, there is no question where the power lies on I-75.
-Who guards Scoochie Smith? Smith went for 13/7/3 and was the only player on Dayton that Byron Larkin deemed worthy of playing at Xavier's level. (If the rivalry has cooled on the court the last couple of years, it clearly hasn't in Byron's heart. He was at his most unfiltered and entertaining self in the second half). Smith took only four field goals and never really attempted to assert himself on the game. On a day where Xavier players were taking turns throwing hammers, Dayton's star never really responded.
-Can Xavier score inside? How does 46 points in the paint and 56.8% shooting inside the arc sound? Dayton's supposed strength was interior defense, but Xavier eviscerated them inside. Xavier had a 37.1% offensive rebounding rate and had only two shots blocked all game. Xavier didn't just score inside, they dominated.
-Did Xavier's easy wins help? I have no idea. Dayton looked like they had some energy, but just weren't as good a team. Ultimately, this came down to talent, not rest, and Xavier had a lot more of it. The Flyers are a good mid-major that ran into a good high major program. This is what happens.
Tweet of the Game:
@BannersParkway We can get away with it against mid-major programs.
— Ryan Lutz (@RyanLutz07) November 29, 2015