If I told you before the game that Villanova would make 12 threes and hit 50% of their shots from inside the arc, how would that have made you feel? What if I then had told you Nova would hit nearly 90% of their free throws and outscore Xavier in points off of turnovers? All of those things ended up being true. None of them ended up mattering.
A lot of amazing individual performances went into Xavier's win, but this was a comprehensive team performance. Xavier worked as a unit on the boards to outrebound Nova with an edge in DReb% to the tune of 76.9% to 66.7% and an advantage of 33.3% to 23.1% on the OReb%. Xavier had 30 made baskets, 24 of which came courtesy of assists. Villanova may have had the best player on the floor in Kris Jenkins, but Xavier had the better team.
Xavier was led by the player whose absence defined the previous meeting between these two teams. Edmond Sumner wasn't carted off on a stretcher tonight and he made up for lost time, going for 19/6/9 on 4-12/0-3/11-13 shooting. He didn't have his best shooting night, but he was nails from the line and only turned the ball over 3 times in 33 minutes of play. Xavier doesn't have anyone else quite like Ed.
JP Macura didn't stuff the stat sheet, but he matched Sumner point for point in grabbing 19/1/0 on 8-14/2-3/1-1 shooting with no turnovers. JP Also had three steals, including perhaps the biggest play of the game when he dispossessed Kris Jenkins after a missed free throw and fed the ball back to Kaiser Gates, who drew Jenkins's 5th foul. Jenkins had 22 points on 10 field goal attempts in 19 minutes; getting him out of there hamstrung Nova's comeback.
Jalmes Farrnolds played 40 minutes and helped Xavier control the middle of the floor, combining for 21/8/1 with a steal and 3 turnovers on 9-12/0-0/3-6 shooting. Jalen clearly relished going right at Ochefu on both ends, and James was doing the dirty work with four offensive boards. Nobody else in the nation has a big man like Farrnolds.
Speaking of singular players, Myles Davis was once again the hero Xavier deserves tonight. I mentioned pre-game that Xavier is 15-1 on the season when Myles makes more than one three, so this one was in the books with 9:21 to play in the first half despite the fact that his second three put X down 26-24. Myles kept adding on, eventually finishing with 16/4/6 on 5-11/4-9/2-2 shooting. In the battle of guards who have been out of high school forever, he comprehensively outplayed Nova's Ryan Arcidiacono.
It's a testament to Xavier's depth that the team's leading scorer coming into the game was mostly silent, tallying just 10/7/3 on a modest 3-7/1-2/3-4 shooting in a game in which the Muskies still dropped 90 points on a really good defense. Credit to Trevon for recognizing he didn't need to force his way into the game, and credit to the rest of the team for carrying the load.
Kaiser Gates still got big minutes even though Coach Mack shortened the rotation to the point of DNP'ing Sean O'Mara. Gates's athleticism was a huge boost in the middle of the 1-3-1, and he played with a poise that belies his experience level in dropping 5/7/2 with no turnovers.
This was a great game for this team and this program. There was no doubt coming in that this would be the biggest regular season game in Cintas history, and the Muskies were equal to the billing. There's still more than a month of meaningful basketball left to be played, but don't let that cloud the fact that this is a Xavier team that has earned the right to be named among the nation's elite.
When the chips are down and the number of teams remaining keeps being narrowed by multiples of four, Xavier has always demonstrated that they are a force to be reckoned with. Now they've moved beyond perennial tournament upstarts to serious national title contenders. Don't let anyone try to talk you down tonight; tonight is a night for going to bed dreaming of Houston.