Every fan of every high major team at the start of the season has a lingering fear in the back of their mind that their team is somehow a pretender. Gonzaga fans sweat two recent losses, Purdue fans contemplate a team that is number one now but has never managed to hold those heights before, and Baylor fans... well Baylor fans probably feel pretty good still. Just lightly farther down the ladder things are no different.
Xavier traveled to Stillwater on Sunday with a 6-1 record, two Q2 wins, and no real road tests against a fellow high major. It’s hard to totally judge a team that hasn’t gone one the road and done the job. That’s no longer the case with Xavier.
Colby Jones is a star
A 6-6, 207 pound swing forward shouldn’t dominate the glass like Jones does. His seven offensive rebounds yesterday were nearly as many as Oklahoma State managed as a team, his five defensive rebounds were more than anyone other than Moussa Cisse. Jones’ rate is over 16% in both now. Against the Cowboys he scored 17, dished out four assists, took hard defensive assignments, and killed the game off with his only three point attempt all day. He was absolutely brilliant, and he only turned the ball over once.
Turnovers are going to cost this team a game
Xavier had this one salted away late with an 14 point lead and under five minutes to play. Then they turned the ball over on two straight possessions and only OSU’s shooting issues and Jones’ dagger kept the Musketeers comfortably ahead. Ok St is a difficult team to play in terms of ball security, but a 22.4% turnover rate is unacceptable in games where the other team can shoot.
Xavier’s defense was excellent again
Oklahoma St isn’t a great shooting team, but they can score in bunches on the offensive glass, in transition, and when the get the ball in the paint. Xavier held them, if you can say that, to 52.6% inside the arc, but shut down the Cowboys on the glass and on the run. OSU got seven chance points despite being a team that thrives on run outs, and was outscored but the Musketeers 12-11 in second chance points. It was another good gameplan well executed.
Coach Steele won the coaching battle handily
Travis Steele deployed his Swiss Army knife to the offensive glass and dropped his guard to protect transition. That may have been one of the most notable ways he outdid Mike Boynton (a Banners favorite), but it was hardly the only one. Steele juggled his lineup to battle foul trouble all night and found that his best defender, Jerome Hunter, wasn’t matching up as well as Dwon Odom. That switch undertaken, it was time for the best move of the game.
Xavier rallied early in the second half to take a 52-50 lead. As soon as they did, Steele went into that old YMCA standby, the 2-3 zone. Oklahoma scored five points in the next 9:38. That took a two point lead to a 14 point one. Steele threw two more possessions of man out there, then went back to the zone. The Cowboys never recovered. That’s how good coaching can win games.
Gallagher-Iba is a weird arena or OSU has awful fans
Watching the game last night was an exercise in fighting off vertigo. Listening to the always excellent Joe Sunderman and Byron Larkin was just confusing. The arena was so quiet that 55 KRC was either piping in Covid white noise or moved the mics. On TV you couldn’t just hear the coaches, you could clear make out instruction and complaints being yelled. The entire atmosphere felt like a game in lockdown, a preseason exhibition, or just a game being played where the students are stuck far away from the court and are apathetic anyway. Trips like this just emphasize how great the Cintas is.