Coming in to tonight's game, everyone knew for Xavier to beat Georgia State two things had to happen: RJ Hunter could not be allowed to gun the Panthers back into the game like had against Baylor, and Xavier had to make their massive size advantage tell on the boards. Hunter led GSU with 20 points, but shot just 6-15 from the field and was frustrated by the attentions of Remy Abell in the second half. Xavier outrebounded the Panthers 23-12 and those two factors contributed to send Xavier into the second weekend yet again.
The main focal point of Xavier's attack was Jalen Reynolds, who came as close to being unstoppable as anyone possibly can be. His 21/6/0 came on 8-9/0-0/5-5 shooting while he also managed to avoid his ancient nemesis, the technical foul. Jalen was able to establish his face-up game, which made Georgia State challenge his shot, after which it was pretty much all over but the monster dunks. Georgia State is a team that pressures the ball and creates most of their chances off turnovers, but they are not good at defending the post and the passing was snappy enough and Jalen assertive enough to expose that weakness tonight.
While Jalen was the barreling bulldozer, pummeling Georgia State in the post, Myles Davis was back to his early season antics of making threes from just about anywhere and finished the night with 17/1/1 on 5-8/5-8/2-2. A lot has been made of Myles newfound ability to put the ball on the deck this season, but he didn't need it tonight because he could not miss from three. His final three from deep on the right wing came with 1:35 left, extended the Xavier lead back to 10, and finally took the fight out of Georgia State. Myles has struggled over the past month, but he was exactly what Xavier needed tonight, and now he has a chance to prove he really is back.
The other Musketeer in double figures was Banners (Joel's) favorite Dee Davis, who had another big scoring night and finished with 15/3/5 on 3-3/1-1/8-9 shooting. After the unmitigated disaster he was at the line against Georgetown, Dee was money tonight when called upon and was rarely undone by the heavy Georgia State pressure, turning the ball over 3 times. Dee also was active on the wing of Xavier's 1-3-1 zone, coming away with 2 of X's 3 steals on the night. Coach Mack has said that Dee is playing the best ball of his career right now, and on tonight's evidence you would be foolish to argue.
For most of the night, Xavier was unable to run their offense to Matt Stainbrook as much as they had recently, but he still managed 9/6/2 on 4-5/0-0/1-2 but was also forced into 3 turnovers by the swarms of Panthers surrounding him seemingly at all times. Stainbrook did have a few good feeds, including one that set up the first of Jalen's terrifying trio of throwdowns (alliteration: check). His presence was also vital as the last line in the 1-3-1 as X kept GSU without an offensive rebound in the first half. Stainbrook's line might not jump off the page in tomorrow's paper, but he did his thing for X and was content to play second fiddle down low to Jalen tonight.
Remy Abell was the only Xavier player to make multiple field goals and shoot under 50% from the field, which is not to say he was bad tonight. Indeed his 8/2/2 without a turnover on 2-5/0-2/4-5 shooting in pretty good work if it means he hassles RJ Hunter into a below 50% from the field performance. Remy was once again an early catalyst for the Xavier attack before seeing who else got hot, scoring 5 of his 8 before the under 8 timeout in the first half. There was a brief moment where Remy picked up a pair of fouls in rapid sucession, but other than a poor decision later in the game, he was able to keep himself in the game and deny Georgia State's best player for some vital possessions in the second half.
Odds and Ends:
- Trevon Bluiett was again hampered by foul trouble, but was able to hit a vital three with 9:19 left to hold off another second half charge.
- James Farr did his thing on the boards, but turned the ball over three times as well and went 0-1 from the field. He did hit 2-2 from the line, however.
- Xavier was 23-34/7-13/22-25 shooting tonight, which is astounding.