Xavier finally ended their three game losing streak yesterday. Not since the Semaj Christon led team that foundered in the play in game had a Xavier team lost three in a row. While this team is not that team, a three game loser at any point is going to get the alarm bells ringing in Norwood. With UC looming and Creighton, Butler, and Villanova still on the schedule again, the Musketeers really needed to get things right and, blessedly, they did.
This isn’t your father’s Georgetown:
It’s not even your older brother’s Georgetown. The Hoyas are 1-6 in conference play and have dropped 16 straight to Big East teams not named DePaul or coached by Chris Mullin. Before the Big East schedule started Georgetown looked like they could be a bubble NCAA tournament team. Barring a for real, Jesus walks among us style miracle, they aren’t going anywhere now. There aren’t any truly horrendous losses on the resume, but losing over and over to good and average teams isn’t really the recipe for success. John Thompson III should surely be on his way out at the end of this year.
Xavier didn’t do much differently:
The Musketeers still started 1-8 from behind the arc, still took too many jumpers early in the game, and shot worse inside the arc in this game than they did against Creighton. The Musketeers also got on the offensive glass at a lower rate than they did against the Jays. In other words, if you were expecting to see a completely different team take the court at the Cintas, you didn’t.
Except where it mattered:
Or maybe you did. Xavier’s free throw rate was an unholy 98%. That means that they essentially took a free throw for every single field goal attempt they had. While I suppose it’s possible to get a higher number, I would wager that 98% is a single game record for the Musketeers. [ed. note: Nope. On Nov 20, 2008, Xavier posted a 102.5% against Missouri]. This came because, for the first time in a long time, Xavier fed the post or drove the ball. Xavier’s bigs didn’t do much, but they kept the lane spaced enough that the guards could get in there and create. Thankfully, they did.
The Musketeers also took care of the ball. Perhaps that’s easier when you are just parading from free throw line to free throw line, but their turnover rate of 13.8% was their lowest since their last win. There are a lot of other factors that go into that, obviously, but it isn’t purely coincidental that the last two games that Xavier hasn’t thrown the ball all over, they’ve won.
Things get tougher now:
The biggest non-conference game of the season lands right in the midst of what is Xavier’s worst run of play in three years. UC is not going to be nearly as obliging about fouling everyone who drives, their free throw rate is one of the lowest in the country, they are going to chase every shooter, and they are going to challenge Xavier on the boards. The Musketeers are going to be in a hostile environment that is going to react to every turnover and the Bearcats are going to benefit from the whistle. Once upon a time, Georgetown would have been a good lead in to the Shootout. They aren’t anymore.