Villanova is not a hard team to figure out what they are going to do on offense. That is not to say they are easy to stop, but Xavier came into this game knowing the Wildcats were going to look to use their wide array of perimeter options to bomb Xavier out of the game, just like they had in the teams two regular season meetings. Their 9-23 mark from indicates they pretty much did that and it spelled defeat for the Musketeers in their first trip to the Big East final. Xavier's offense never looked like taking off and stops were too hard to come by for any type of comeback from the 21 point lead Nova built early in the second half.
A night after nearly costing Xavier the game from the line, free throws were Dee Davis's saving grace tonight, as he posted 13/3/6 on a rather poor 4-12/0-4/5-5. Dee did only have one turnover tonight, but looked to be favoring his right ankle for most of the second half, even as he scored 11 of his points. Dee distributed well, but could not get anything to fall from outside or on the drive. Once could rightly point out that he probably didn't need 12 shots to figure out it wasn't his night, but a lot of the looks were there, they just would not fall. That might become a theme tonight.
Jalen Reynolds tied Dee's scoring output with his own 13/4/0 on 6-11/0-0/1-2 line and was far and away Xavier's most effective player in the post tonight. With Ochefu, Jenkins, and Pinkston making life difficult, Jalen managed 9 points in the second half and managed to keep his fouls from becoming an obstacle to his playing time. For Xavier to make an impact next weekend, they need Jalen to make opponents guard him, and the few good things that happened for X tonight offensively happened when Jalen was in force down low.
James Farr got the start and was really one of the few bright spots for Xavier tonight going for 7/7/0 on a 3-4/1-1/0-0 line. He was the only Musketeer to attempt multiple field goals and shoot over 50%, which makes it hard to win when your opponents shoot 50% as a team. Farr stayed active on the boards long after the game was decided and continued to show the effort for which he is becoming known going for both offensive and defensive rebounds. While his defensive positioning was still clearly a work in progress at times tonight, the Farr that has emerged down the stretch for Xavier is one they need on the floor, rather than the one that saw his minutes cut so drastically at the start of the year.
Matt Stainbrook had been Xavier's driving force against Butler and Georgetown, but a mixture of fatigue, Villanova's athleticism in the post, and frustration led to a forgettable night for the big man. 4/3/1 on 2-8/0-0/0-0 is not how he hoped he would close out his Big East career, but his work earlier in the week mean he and the rest of this team will still have meaningful games in which to set things right next week. Stainbrook was visibly upset with his struggles despite getting into some good positions, but like most of the team, he could just not get shots to fall tonight.
Remy Abell scored Xavier's first four points and was aggressive early, leading X with 7 in the first half, but faded as the game went on and ended with 7/1/0 on 3-8/1-4/0-2. He is playing with a fracture in his right hand, which may be affecting his shot, but he was really the player to make much of an impact in the first 20 for X. He looked like was running out of gas as well, having had to chase Darrun Hilliard and Dylan Ennis around all night on defense.
Myles Davis continued his run of rough games with 4/1/2 coming on 2-9/0-5/0-0 shooting. Myles looks like his legs are starting to go again, and it is affecting his shooting much as it did late last season. He is still a much more valuable player than he was last year at this time because of his ability to drive the ball and his climbing assist rate, but he has struggled from outside lately and is now 5 of his last 27 from three. Hopefully, he can turn it around in the next week.
Odds and Ends:
- LAJ got some time tonight and went for 0/2/1 with a steal and a freakish turnover where he slipped and fell unguarded at half court. Other than that he continues to look more comfortable on the ball.
- Sean O'Mara came in and scored a basket, but failed to accumulate any other stats than that.
- Trevon Bluiett was limited by fouls tonight and posted a 1-6 line from the field on his way to 2 points. He pressed a lot late in the game, but was mostly a non-factor.
- Xavier posted a 6-9 from the line, not great in both quality and quantity.