So how about that BYU upset everybody? President Obama, sir, how does that pick feel now? What about you, Doug Gottlieb? How's your bubble team look now? "I didn't even know we were allowed to move forward. Everybody in the country seemed like they had BYU to be in this game & advance." That was the quote from Coach Mack after the game, and it's fair to say that summed up the feeling of everyone in a loud and proud Xavier Nation. Everyone overlooked the Musketeers, and that didn't seem to sit well with the team.
After Tuesday night, it was clear that Ole Miss was going to try to run and gun and run some more. It was equally clear from the tip today that Xavier was not interested in letting that happen. Xavier players were constantly reminding each other, frequently with a downturned hand, to slow the pace and work the clock. Runouts were limited as the Musketeer players, led by a brilliant Dee Davis, slowed the game, worked patiently and squeezed the life out of a Rebels team that came in flying high after storming past BYU.
Xavier took the lead in this game with 36:47 minutes left and never relinquished it. That lead came through Xavier's seniors, who came to play today. Matt Stainbrook (20/9/5) was unstoppable in the post all game and converted and one. The next possession Dee Davis (17/2/3) missed a three, but the next time down Dee canned another open look and Xavier never looked back. It was Stainbrook and Remy Abell (8/1/2) scoring the next two trips down and suddenly the Musketeers led 11-3 and Andy Kennedy needed a timeout.
Eight points wasn't enough cushion against the team that dropped 94 on BYU Tuesday, but that team wasn't facing Xavier's defense. Ole Miss shot 32.9% from the floor today and 6-27 from deep. Stefan Moody, the talk of the nation after leading the charge over the Cougars, couldn't shake the attention of Dee Davis or the velcro adherence of Remy Abell and went 5-18 from the floor and was a total non-factor in the game. The Rebel forwards the crushed BYU inside scored a grand total of 16 in going up against a real front line.
Vital in the effort of that dominant front line was James Farr (6/13/1). Farr was a scorer last year, a focal point for the offense at times. This year he struggled to find his way until late in the year when he seemed determined to turn himself into a rebounder. Today, that effort showed as James grabbed everything within reach. Between he, Jalen Reynolds (6/5/2), and Matt Stainbrook, Xavier's front line very nearly equaled Mississippi in rebounds. The Rebels managed only their average in offensive rebounds and couldn't get the second chances their horrid shooting demanded.
At the half, Xavier led by 12. The fanbase of a team that struggled all year to put games away, that blew lead after second half lead, buckled in for another wild ride. This time, though, it never came. Mississippi never came closer than the ten they cut it to with 6:53 to play. Xavier survived a long stretch with Dee on the bench with four fouls, Jalen going 2-12, and Matt Stainbrook getting called for a ridiculous tech and never let the game get close. Coach Mack orchestrated his team perfectly and they responded in kind. Playing a slower pace, Xavier scored 1.15 points per possession and held Ole Miss to .86. The Rebels wanted to run, but the 1-3-1 and a glue like man to man zipped up a team that came in as the nation's darlings. Xavier came in a trendy pick to get upset, they left with a win in dominating style.
- How healthy is JP Macura? Healthy enough to walk onto the court ready to shoot. Macura (6/0/0) buried a triple in the first half but it was his second half bomb that helped Xavier survive the stretch with Stainbrook off the court. Macura took the shot without a moment's hesitation. He certainly looked healthy enough.
- Who guards Stefan Moody? Dee Davis and Remy Abell took turns, but it was really the 1-3-1 that threw off the Mississippi talisman. Moody never found anything that even vaguely resembled a rhythm and struggled with a defense that didn't just imitate traffic cones. The Musketeers shut Moody down completely. Without him, the Rebels never found an offense.
- Who starts for Xavier? It was Dee, Remy, Trevon Bluiett (4/4/2), Big Game James, and Matt Stainbrook. The defense minded lineup (if Xavier has such a thing) was clearly the right call. Myles Davis (6/2/2) and Reynolds played the most minutes coming off the bench and Myles finally knocked down a couple of threes. The emphasis on the double post remained through the entire game and help Xavier fight Ole Miss' size.