This isn’t going to go down as one of those Xavier tournament wins for the ages. It won’t be the K-State game, and Gus Johnson wasn’t involved. However, all tournament wins count the same for what truly matters, they all lead to a survive and advance. Xavier prevailed tonight by doing the things that the Big East forces their teams to do.
Quentin Goodin was huge
The kid may have more impressive games in terms point total, but he ran the show tonight. At least one of his turnovers came on an utterly absurd call in which he was run over and then called for traveling. Other than that, he managed nine assists and only four turnovers. That’s an assist rate of 41% in his first NCAA tournament game. He also went 3-6 from the floor and 3-3 from the line in 39 minutes. X has no margin for error at guard, and thanks to Q they didn’t need any tonight.
Melo Trimble was not
This game was pitched as Trevon Bluiett against Trimble. After a slow start, Bluiett held up his end of the bargain and then some. Melo, despite being the beneficiary essentially every time the whistle blew, turned the ball over three times to only three assists, shot 5-15 from the floor, and went 2-4 from the line. While X was filled with guys coming up big on the big stage, Trimble came up small.
JP was a scrapper
Macura didn’t play one of his better games, but he was everywhere when he was needed. His strip of Cowan and resultant finish came at a great time for Xavier, pushing the lead from seven back out to nine. Despite an off shooting night, he still came up with a line of 10/5/1.
The bench was huge
Sean O’Mara’s contributions simply can’t be overstated. He went for 18/7/1 and was far too much for a frankly unimpressive Damonte Dodd. What was huge for X was that Sean went 8-9 for the line. A lot of the season, hacking Sean to limit his effectiveness would have been the way to go. Tonight, that didn’t work and Sean was immense. Any Maryland fan watching must have wondered how the spinning giant in the middle wasn’t the one who dominated the pregame coverage.
But Kaiser Gates contributions shouldn’t be overlooked. He was essentially just a spot up shooter, but he knocked down two threes in the first half when X was struggling to really get going, and he streaked ahead of the pack to slam a dunk that took Xavier’s lead out to ten late in the game.
On to the next
These games are never fun, as such, to watch. Once the result is in hand, relief seems a more appropriate emotion than joy. Still, it was excellent to see this one end with the boys from the Queen City on top. It’s a team from Florida next on the docket. No matter who it is, there are ways Xavier could win it, and ways they could lose it. They’ll be battle tested though. Like tonight, even adversity will be met with a Big East toughness that comes out when it’s needed.