What happened: Xavier 65-63 Georgetown
With tournament seeding on the line and one fantastic finish already in the books tonight at Madison Square Garden, Xavier and Georgetown served up another classic tonight, putting on a far superior spectacle to either of their regular season meetings. At times, this looked like it may end up like one of those games, both comfortable Xavier wins, but Xavier's shakiness down the stretch led to a massive run by the Hoyas and nearly cost X a shot at a Big East Tournament title. A game that briefly boiled over, and was sometimes hard to watch eventually gave us some very tense final minutes and Xavier making their first entrance into the Big East final a year after fellow newcomer Creighton.
The story for the parts of the game Xavier dominated was Matt Stainbrook, who once again leveraged his interior positioning to create foul trouble for the opposition's post players, this time's victim being Josh Smith. Smith started matching Stainbrook shot for shot, but did not score after picking up his second foul midway through the first half, while Matt went on to 20/9/0 on 8-13/0-0/4-5. The game was Stainbrook's for about 30 minutes, as Georgetown struggled to get bodies on him that could keep him quiet without fouling him. Stainbrook was definitely the focal point for X when they were going well, but he did have a pair of turnovers in the second half at the beginning of Georgetown's run which seemed to interrupt the Muskies flow on offense.
The only other Musketeer on double figures was Remy Abell whose 10/2/0 came on 4-6/2-2/0-2 shooting. When teams overplay the post it is vital to have guards that make outside shots or can put their heads down and attack, and Remy did both tonight at various times. Overall, it was an extremely efficient night for Remy, who also had his hand in D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera's struggles by playing him tough in man defense and assuming the point position when Xavier took up a 1-3-1 zone that flummoxed Georgetown for quite a while.
The reason Remy was at the point was due to the absence of JP Macura, who went down with a right ankle injury in the first half. It put an immediate halt to what had been a promising night for the freshman who had 8/0/0 on 2-2/2-2/2-2 shooting. After failing to produce much of substance in 14 minutes last night, JP came out and was instant offense for Xavier, needing only 7 minutes to get those numbers. JP landed on Jabril Trawick's foot and rolled his ankle, of which x-rays were negative, and Coach Mack indicated it was a long shot that JP would play tomorrow in post game comments.
One freshman who will play tomorrow is Trevon Bluiett, who once again overcame an inconsistent night from the floor to make a couple of big shots at the end. His three with 3:33 on the clock was followed by a pair of free throws with 1:46 left, all of which ended up being essential for Xavier to hang on at the end. His line of 9/2/3 on 2-7/2-6/3-4 isn't going to turn a lot of heads, but he has shown a knack for making important plays in the last three games that has translated into close wins for Xavier.
Jalen Reynolds has a knack for getting called for technical fouls, and was assessed one at the 7:53 mark in the second half tonight that turned the tide of the game. After becoming briefly involved in aggressive gesturing and yelling with Jabril Trawick, the refs saw fit to penalize Reynolds and not Trawick, who was definitely the aggressor in the situation (and had been fouled by James Farr). Reynolds was good for 8/5/0 on 3-6/0-0/2-3 tonight while managing to avoid foul trouble until the technical. He had 3 of Xavier's 8 offensive rebounds tonight and was unstoppable at times, pairing with Stainbrook or Farr to help Xavier to a 33-28 edge on the boards. Jalen has a high motor and plays with his heart on his sleeve. At times that is his greatest asset and at time his greatest weakness, but he is very rarely a non factor when he is on the floor.
After having a fairly successful night scoring the ball against Butler, Dee Davis was inefficient in the scoring department tonight, putting up 4/3/8 on 1-4/0-3/2-6. He searched for his shot outside early but couldn't find it and missed four straight from the line before making both with 10 seconds to play to keep it a three point game. Dee also had 4 turnovers tonight, offset by his 8 assists, but ran the show all 40 minutes again for Xavier. One wonders if the accumulation of over 80 minutes over 2 days will affect him against Villanova, but I guess we will have to find out.
Odds and Ends:
- James Farr got the start, didn't score until there was 1.3 seconds left in the game, and grabbed 6 rebounds. He also took no prisoners on the boards, giving Xavier an aggressive force cleaning up misses at both ends.
- Myles Davis was held without a field goal, but was 5-7 from the line, chipping in 2 boards and 2 turnovers. Myles got a couple of open looks tonight but they didn't fall. If JP is down, we could use Myles to start hitting again.
- Xavier was 19-31 (61%) from the line tonight, with a 4-14 performance marring a 10 minute stretch of the second half. Xavier left a lot of points at the line tonight, which contributed to their struggles.