The story of this game begins and ends with James Farr. As the big man explained to Dana Jacobson after the game "it's my senior year." Farr played like a guy who wants that year to go as long as it possibly can and was a large part in helping Xavier calm some early nerves and eventually put Weber State away. Michigan State had demonstrated earlier in the day what can happen when a two seed lets a 15 hang around, and it was largely Farr that kept the Wildcats from getting over, or even too near, the hump all game.
The game started with Xavier scoring eight quickly and establishing a six point lead. From then on, Xavier was essentially trying to keep Weber from settling into the game while the Wildcats tried to do whatever they could to keep Xavier's guards from cutting them to pieces. After the Musketeers realized that maybe 17 foot pull up jumpers weren't the way to go despite their ability to get them pretty much at will, it was only a matter of time before the Musketeers size would begin to tell.
Kaiser Gates was an early example of the difference in a team like Weber and Xavier. The 6-8 swingman ripped off seven points in a two minute span in the first half and was just way too much for Weber's less athletic bigs. His three pointer made the lead 21-6 and should have sent Xavier into coast mode. Xavier's guards wanted in on the act, though, and the Musketeers didn't take another look inside for the next four minutes until Farr powered in another layup. Xavier's reluctance to go inside led to shooting 40.5% with no free throws for the half.
If the first half of the game was about James Farr, the second half was a lot about Jalen Reynolds attempting to rip the rim off. Jalen said after the game that things had gotten physical inside and he wanted to send a message. He did so when Zach Braxton attempted to rise with what he thought was a hook-shotting Reynolds. Things looked ok for the man in purple right until he peaked and Jalen kept going up. Reynolds went for 8/4/0 in the second half to go with Farr's 10/4/1.
Jalems Farrnolds went for 30/20/1 on 10-19 from the floor for the game. The rest of the team chipped in a 7-14 from the arc and, with the exception of Remy Abell and Trevon Bluiett, not a great deal else offensively. That doesn't mean that the everyone else didn't chip in though. The defense held Weber to six points in their final 15 possessions to turn a mildly tense game into a comfortable win, Myles Davis only managed six points, but he added eight rebounds and six assists, Remy suffocated Jeremy Senglin into just seven points on 11 shots, and even an otherwise quiet Edmond Sumner chipped in six assists.
Today may have not told us a lot about this team or this potential tournament run. The third best coach in the Big East realized that Xavier could dominate inside and he made sure that the wolves got fed. Myles Davis did what he always does, whatever is needed, and Xavier's defense clamped down when it needed to. This was one of those games where the best case scenario at the end was relief. Xavier couldn't win in a way that was going to be noteworthy in a positive way, and a loss wasn't going to be anything but devastating. In some ways, the tournament really starts on Sunday. Wisconsin and their excellent defense are waiting, and Xavier needs to bring everything in their arsenal to win. Tonight, at least, the most potent weapon was Big Game James.