Tomorrow, should clearer heads prevail, we’ll get into a full breakdown of the game, but tonight the prevailing emotion is that of anger. Xavier came into this game the underdog, got 40 points from a blistering hot Trevon Bluiett, and had to ride Quentin Goodin for 15 (actually very good) minutes but absolutely should have won this game. Instead, they lost in the most disgusting of fashions, by simply being outworked.
One of the coaches at our alma mater had a saying about rocks, jelly beans, and marshmallows. The gist was that a rock looked hard and was hard, a jelly bean looked hard but was soft, and a marshmallow looked soft and was soft. I mention this because tonight Rashid Gaston, Sean O’Mara, and Kaiser Gates were marshmallows. Actually, that’s a disservice to some marshmallows, which become a little firm when they go stale.
Four. That’s how many defensive rebounds those three combined for. Tyrique Jones equalled that on his own. Noted glass master JP Macura eclipsed it. Don’t worry though, they more than made up for it on the other end. Offensively, Gaston continued to show no touch around the rim, missing three layups and two stickbacks to go 0-5. O’Mara joined the point blank miss parade and had his obligatory turnover on a drop. Kaiser Gates opened Xavier’s scoring and then proceeded to go 0-4 for the rest of the game.
Xavier becomes the first team this year to shoot better than 40% (53.6%, actually) and 80% (82.6%) from behind the arc against Cincinnati and lose. In a game in which the Musketeers turned the ball over a very reasonable 12 times and got 40 FREAKING POINTS from Trevon Bluiett they lost because of a completely gutless showing in the paint. Not since the Maginot Line has something with so much accumulated size been so completely useless in an important situation. At this point, Coach Mack must surely wonder if he’s better off just playing Tyrique Jones for the 20 minutes it would take him to foul out and then just playing with five guards.
Not that Coach Mack is without blame here. Yes, the shambolic officiating was so bad it made it difficult for Xavier to play man defense, but the 1-3-1 only exacerbated the issues. Xavier stayed in it even while a wandering JP Macura left Malcolm Bernard forced to pull high and huge holes open in the middle. Even had UC wanted to, they wouldn’t have been able to avoid getting the ball inside. Once in there, they only had to wade through the morass of melting butter to eventually score.
And then there’s the odd reluctance not to feed Trevon in the second half. It’s hard to care what it would have looked like or what it would have taken, there is no reason that Trevon didn’t get at least 20 shots up tonight. Yes, the switch to Jacob Evans made things a bit more difficult, but Bluiett spent the entire night showing that all he need was an iota of space and he was going to score. He was absolutely bloodlessly brilliant, and Xavier went nine and a half second half minutes without getting him the ball. That’s not good defense or offense running somewhere else (God knows it wasn’t) that’s inexcusably bad coaching. How the game looked so much different from the sideline than it did in objective reality is befuddling.
And, of course, there was the officiating. Malcolm Bernard’s last two fouls involved literally no skin to skin contact. Jarron Cumberland hit the truck stick on JP Macura and launched him into the cheerleaders and, of course, went to the line. When UC missed a three, it was a Xavier foul under the basket. Here at Banners we’ve pleaded for a review of the officials for years, but they continue to operate in a sphere in which they can do nothing to harm themselves. There isn’t a call, pattern of calls, or egregious no call that can do anything get a ref any sort of comeuppance. Like professors with tenure, they slide further into the cesspool of filth they’ve created while their administration must stand idly by and defend them. Refusing any sort of review gets you games like this, open and exciting for about 30 minutes, and then a complete changing of the gears at a whim. John Higgins, Doug Shows, and Tony Greene were complete garbage tonight. In any other profession a performance like that earns you a suspension, they’ll just cash another check on Saturday.
But that trio isn’t the reason Xavier lost this game. No, that dubious honor goes to Rashid Gaston, Sean O’Mara, and Kaiser Gates who, in a game that Xavier both desperately wanted and desperately needed, came up softer than marshmallows. In a romantic comedy when the guy lets down someone that badly, he buys flowers, grabs the mic at a wedding (how zany!), and begs for forgiveness. If those three do anything less than that for Trevon Bluiett tomorrow, they will be lesser men for it.
Sure glad we got those 42 minutes out of James Farr back in 2012.