The view at half time was a promising one for Xavier today. They had jumped out by 9 halfway through the first half, Baylor had reeled them in, and then X had found some footing to go into the half up by 3 on the back of a strong first half from Trevon Bluiett, who sat at 12/5/1 by halftime today. Bluiett had been making up for the fact that JP Macura was having a very bad shooting day and looked every part the best player on the floor who, with no fouls at halftime, would factor heavily into the ultimate outcome of the contest.
A quick glance at the stats revealed a few things from Xavier’s good showing in the first 20 minutes that needed to improve. Firstly, someone other than Bluiett was going to have to be an offensive threat for Xavier, even as well as he was playing. Eventually, one would figure, Baylor would find a waya to limit his effectiveness and no one else on Xavier had shown that they were capable of carrying the mail today. Another one was the turnover situation. Somewhat of an Achilles’ heel for Xavier this year has been the tendency to hand out free possessions to the opposition, which would be especially bad against a team that wanted to push the tempo like Baylor did. 7 first half turnovers had led to 7 points off turnovers for the Bears, while Xavier had yet to score off a turnover at halftime.
The second issue one could see arising was the freedom with which Manu Lecomte was finding space on the perimeter and getting his shot. Lecomte shot 45% from deep as a sophomore at Miami (FL) and is a known quantity from deep, even if he came into the game on a 3-16 skid. He was 3-6 in the first half and combined with Jonathan Motley for 19 of Baylor’s 31 points. Keeping him from getting looks from deep was going to be essential in holding the lead, forcing Baylor to try to get someone else going.
The final thing that was concerning for X fans at the half was the 71% mark from the free throw line which, although slightly better than Xavier’s season mark, is still below where a team would want to be if they were trying to knock off a top 10 opponent on the road. Cleaning up those three issues would serve X well in the final 20 minutes. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.
Getting Tre Some Help
Xavier followed a first half where players not named Trevon shot 33% from the floor, including 7-21 from two point range with what was somehow an even worse shooting performance in the second half. Musketeers other than Bluiett shot 3-21 from the floor in the second half. 14%. If you are new to basketball, that is abysmal.
Obviously, that wouldn’t have mattered if Bluiett’s 60% mark had been on 9-15 from deep, but sadly he ran into foul trouble, pucking up 3 in the first 7 minutes of the half, and was limited to 15 minutes before fouling out with the game already gone. Having no one fill the hole left by Tre hurt, but was it as bad as...
The Turnover Monster
The 7 first half turnovers would end up looking like a John Stockton highlight reel compared to the second half showing from X today. 10 second half turnovers would lead to 11 Baylor points, short circuiting any chance at a comeback once Xavier went behind. They came in all forms from travels to having the ball slapped away by an opponent to simply bad passing, but they all seemed to some at the worst possible time for any attempt to gain momentum.
Obviously if you only have one guy seeming even remotely capable of scoring a field goal, you want to find the best shot you can and hope someone else starts hitting. That being said, ending 10 possessions without a shot isn’t going to help you find the hot hand and will hamstring an offense that is shooting well, much less one that can’t seem to buy a bucket. But maybe Baylor was having the same problems...
The Lecomte Supremacy
Manu Lecomte went bonkers in the second half. No matter how you look at it, the dude killed Xavier over the final 20 minutes. He tallied one fewer make than Xavier’s entire team and ended with 15/0/4 on 5-6/3-3/2-2 in the second half. Simply put, Xavier could not find a way to keep him quiet no matter what they did and he was instrumental in Baylor running away, especially in the final quarter of the game. But even Belgium’s best export since waffles might not bum X fans out as much as...
15 Feet Is a Long Way, You Guys
Of all the numbers in the second half, and we have looked at some ugly ones, none may be harder to stomach than the 11-21 from the line X chucked up. Some nights teams play swarming defense and clean looks are hard to come by, leading to misses. Sometimes there seems to be a hand in every passing lane or the ball slips through some hands, leading to turnovers. There will even be days when nothing you do on defense seems to slow down an opponent, leading to someone having a big night against you. All the other other issues can be chalked up, somewhat, to being beyond a team’s control. Not this one. Free throws, like war, never change.
If Coach Norman Dale taught us nothing else, he taught us that the free throw line is 15 feet from the baseline and the hoop is 10 feet off the ground no matter where you play (except possibly Hinkle). 52% from the line in the second half and 57% for the game are not affected by opposition or atmosphere, just by a simple lack of execution. That is, unfortunately, what they story boiled down to tonight for X. On to Colorado.