Take #1: Ohio U’s offense sucks and the 61 points Xavier gave up in 68 possessions flatter to deceive thanks to a strong close.
Take #2: Having looked past this game to the weekend for 30 minutes of game time, Xavier clicked in to seal the deal and hit the Shootout in stride.
With 10:47 left in the game, Ohio U’s Doug Taylor dunked to make it a 56-54 game. OU would have 18 more possessions on the game. They would make 2 field goals. In a game in which Xavier had been sleepwalking most of the way, they dialed up a zipping up that would have been of mythic proportions had it come against a more challenging opponent.
In the final stretch of the game, Xavier held Ohio U to 7 points on 2-13/1-5/2-6 shooting. Ohio U managed 2 offensive boards for an OReb% of 14.3% and mixed in 4 turnovers just for good measure.
Xavier did it with a mixture of zone and man looks, but the most effective defense was actually your standard YMCA 2-3 with Paul Scruggs chasing everything up top and Keonte Kennedy holding the high post and then taking the first pass. An OU team that had been passing through Xavier all night suddenly had no options.
This wasn’t exactly splitting the atom from Travis Steele, but it was probably the best in-game adjustment we’ve seen him make as Xavier head coach so far. The game went from a tight battle to a runaway in a matter of a handful of possessions because he was able to correctly assess what was going wrong and what needed to be done to fix it.
The question of which of the above takes is correct is likely either both or neither. Xavier was meh, then they were great once they made the adjustment. This weekend at UC, Travis Steele is going to have his work cut out for him as he tries to crack Mick Cronin’s offense of having a dude throw the ball at the rim and then sending the entire roster to the offensive glass. If he can keep his wits about him and pull the right strings like he did last night, Xavier will once again have their crosstown opponents talking about how it’s only one game and it doesn’t even mean that much.