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Xavier 66-68 Colorado: Uh Oh

Xavier goes on the road, again, and coughs up the game in an ugly second half, again.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Colorado
Could’ve gone either way.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Someone in the comments after the Baylor game said he wasn’t buying into some of the “doom and gloom” on Banners. While wholesale negativity isn’t warranted just yet, Xavier is showing some alarming holes. Most glaring was the almost complete mental breakdown late in the game as off balance, early shot clock free throws and slow feet on defense became more the norm than aberrations. A 15-0 Colorado run while Xavier went over seven minutes without a field goal essentially salted this game away despite a half-valiant comeback late. Xavier drops to 7-2 on the season and heads back to the Cintas with some real questions to answer.

Free throws must have gotten harder:

Xavier is now a completely unforgivable 29-49 from the line in the last two losses. That’s 59% which is, for those of you not in the know, absolute dog crap from the line. Xavier went 13-21 tonight including a delightful 1-5 stretch late in the second half. There are myriad other reasons Xavier lost this game, but just throwing away free points plays an inarguably huge part in it. The Musketeers need to figure it out, or teams are going to just keep challenging as aggressively (14.5% block rate) as Colorado did tonight and daring X to win from the line.

That’s not how you play defense:

On Colorado’s last field goal, JP just flat got beaten by a right hander going right off the top of the key. While that was bad defense in one very notable instance, Xavier allowed a shooting line of .446/.450/.643 (can anyone make free throws?) tonight. Colorado didn’t rack up a ton of points by running up and down the court and the .97 PPP they scored isn’t great. Factor in that it took CU 12 minutes to score their first 14 though, and you get some idea of how unzipped Xavier was when it mattered.

Mental lapses:

It’s a lot harder to quantify mental mistakes. Frankly, most of the armchair “he wanted it more” or “he just looks disinterested” analysis is garbage. Xavier made it a 63-60 game when Edmond Sumner blew past his man and dunked it uncontested. After that, X managed an open three pointer, quick fadeaway three pointer off an inbound, 30 footer, two missed layups, contested three pointer down three with 13 seconds to play, and 35 footer. In that stretch of glory, Rashid Gaston caught an offensive rebound and never even looked at the basket. Quentin Goodin had the third highest usage rate, didn’t score, and turned it over twice.

Persistence is overrated:

We love JP here, anyone who reads articles or our Twitter knows that. That said, the man may not be shooting himself out of this slump right away. Macura is now 5-25 in the last two games and 1-11 from deep in that stretch. He just kept lifting though, even when logic suggest that 30 foot heat checks weren’t a necessity. Trevon Bluiett, meanwhile, needed to gun himself out a slump and has done so nicely while also attempting only four non-three point field goals. With the post players mostly useless, Trevon needs to get to the rim and the line more often and not just be a static shooter. This is somewhat reaching for a complaint, admittedly, because he’s 12-23 from deep on this psuedo road trip.

One big is not enough:

Rashid went for 14/11/0 tonight. Absolve him of any blame for this one. Sean O’Mara and Tyrique Jones combined to go for 6/2/0 in a mostly ineffectual 13 minutes of time. Xavier cannot win with only Gaston, monstrous as he was, playing as a big. Bernard and Bluiett try, but when the opponent can be had on the inside, X needs another legit post scoring threat who isn’t a total liability on defense. Lest you think that is Kaiser Gates, he took five shots, four of them threes, and missed them all today.

Deep breath time:

Those games sucked, didn’t they? Xavier went on the road against two very good teams and played two really ugly second halves. Before the Baylor game the dispassionate numbers saw a Musketeers loss. This game looked like a toss up. Those losses plunged X all the way down to 7-2. No, things haven’t looked good. Yes, Ed Sumner seems to have regressed. No, playing like this won’t win the Big East. Still, Xavier is playing four new players consistently, is still easing Kaiser Gates back in, and is missing their heart and soul. It’s fine and fair to be concerned, but before you start gathering shovels and white roses, keep in mind that it isn’t even Christmas yet.