In the biggest rivalry game in the sport, there is little room for error or even indecision, which can be a lot of pressure for a bunch of 18-22 year olds to handle. Today Xavier was much closer to being error free than their cross city counterparts and were decisive in the big moments before wobbling a bit late to send John Brannen’s crew slinking back to Clifton with nothing but defeat to show for their efforts.
This team brings out the body bags when need be
At the 18:51 mark in the second half, it was a 3 point game and UC had all the momentum after a 5-0 run to end the first half. Xavier needed to turn the tide back in their favor and to do so, they summoned an almighty swarm of the defensive effort that has defined this team all year. Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Jason Carter, and Tyrique Jones spent the next 7 minutes looking like grown men at 4th grade recess as they went on a 17-4 run during which, UC went 2-7/0-3/0-0 and turned the ball over 4 times. Against a team that prides itself on getting baskets inside or getting to the line, Xavier gave them neither during a result defining run in the second half and proved once and for all that Team 98 hangs its hat at the defensive end of the floor.
Zach Freemantle is ready for the Big East
In a game during which Coach Steele predictably tightened up his rotation, two early fouls on Tyrique Jones necessitated the introduction of Zach Freemantle to the Crosstown Shootout and, much like with everything he has faced on the court this season, he attacked it with his trademark tenacity. In a first half where Xavier trailed early and needed a spark to get them going a bit, Freemantle scored 5 points in his first two trips down the floor, ending the half with 7 points and 4 rebounds. While much of the rest of Xavier’s bench cadre were limited in both their minutes and their effectiveness, Freemantle got in and mixed it up with a 7 footer and did better than hold his own while Xavier waited out Jones’ foul issues.
Coach Steele is the man to have at the reins
After some growing pains in his first season in the head chair at X, Travis Steele has shown why so many X fans were high on him when he got the job. Tonight, he worked through having the team’s offensive plan A pick up 2 fouls in the first 4 minutes, another starter picking up his second at the 10 minute mark, and a flurry of early turnovers and ill advised shots to right the ship and feed the walking mismatch that was Naji Marshall tonight. After having spent the first half of last season preaching defense while the product on the court was getting exposed for their defensive woes time and time again, he has this group playing as well on defense as any team of the Kenpom era. Combine that with the fresh talent that is incoming to replenish the cupboard after this season, and there can be little doubt that Xavier have another link in a ever growing chain of excellent coaches.
Bonus Takeaway: This is Quentin Goodin, and you should like it
Q has been the lightning rod for frustration with Xavier’s sporadic offensive droughts this season, but in his final Crosstown Shootout, he put on display exactly what has put him in rare company in Xavier’s all time record book. His 2-7 from the floor will not win him any plaudits, but he had 8 assists to 2 turnovers, grabbed 2 steals which both led directly to runout baskets for Xavier, pulled down 4 defensive boards, and harried Chris McNeal into a nightmarish performance at the point for UC. He also tunderdunked on the entire current Bearcats roster, Mick Cronin, Sean Kilpatrick (whoever that is), and that craphole they call a conference. He will never light up an opponent like Tu Holloway, Ed Sumner, or Lionel Chalmers could, but he was a steady hand at the wheel again for X tonight on a night when UC’s lack of ability to have a coherent offensive gameplan cost them a chance at winning.