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Xavier drops a heartbreaker. Takeaways from a great Gavitt game

Xavier had their chances, but couldn’t quite knock off one of the best teams in the nation.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

How you look at this game will probably be an accurate reflection of how you look at life. Either Xavier scrapped and battled against a top ten team and came up just a very little bit short (or maybe long off the iron), or Xavier threw away a chance for a marquee win on a night when they got all the breaks they needed.

Indiana’s stars outplayed Xavier’s

Trayce Jackson-Davis was the game’s outstanding performer. He went for 30/6/2 and blocked three shots. Indiana missed 28 shots, he grabbed four of those misses. Offensively he went 13-16 from the floor. Jack Nunge simply couldn’t defend him down low and when Xavier flirted with a zone, Indiana hit two big threes to bring them out of it. Xavier Johnson went for 23/7/2 and, despite being a complete wank, controlled the game from the point.

Colby Jones and Jack Nunge combined to go 9-25 from the floor and 0-4 behind the arc with a combined line of 28/13/9. In a game that came down to who could get the most from their big dogs, Indiana’s were better.

Xavier’s secondary players outplayed Indiana’s

It might be cheating to call Zach Freemantle a secondary player, but he had a lot to prove coming into this season. He went for 15/6/3 and played intelligently enough to avoid fouling out. The difference in his effort this season is remarkable. Adam Kunkel was 5-11 from the floor and hit some huge shots for Xavier when they needed them. (I’m aware he also missed one.) Kyky Tandy and Souley Boum also gave really good minutes. Indiana got 26 points from the seven guys who weren’t their top two.

The Musketeers have a guard problem

Good guards need to be able to defend and take care of the ball. When it mattered, Xavier’s struggled to do both. With 5:16 to go, Adam Kunkel threw a pass that Souley Boum inexplicably came halfway to and then stopped. That gave the Hoosiers a five point lead that X never quite overturned. With 24 seconds left, Boum slipped or tripped or something and turned the ball over again. X survived that one only because Malik Reneau sucks at free throws. While the turnover problem was better on the whole, it reared its head when the game was in the balance.

On the other end, Xavier just had no one that could stay in front of Xavier Johnson, who is obnoxious. Maybe Colby Jones when he is fully healthy would be the matchup, but tonight X just couldn’t do it. That put too much pressure on the bigs to rotate and left TJD free to feast. Which he did, because he is very good at basketball.

The Musketeers also got hammered on the defensive glass as well. That’s becoming a troubling theme.

This team has real fight

Down eight with two minutes to play you could have forgiven this team for trotting it in, content with a very solid effort. They didn’t, though. Xavier fought back ferociously with a Colby Jones and one (more on that later), free throws from Nunge, and a three from Boum. The defense finally stepped up and got stops and had one more call gone Xavier’s way, they would have seen it out. There are no moral victories, this game counts as a loss, and Xavier still lacks a resume win, but that spirit will help.

The officiating was nonsensical

First of all, neither of Indiana’s technical fouls should have been. Both were just asinine “look at me, everyone” officiating. A guy made a big bucket and then caught the ball coming through the net? TECH. A guy made a three pointer and then looked at the opponent’s bench? TECH. Tu Holloway would have played about six minutes in his career with this ref crew.

Some of the foul calls were dubious as well. Once they had rung Xavier up for nine in the first nine minutes of the second half, the crew suddenly decided to even things up by calling everything on Indiana. That’s not how it works. Anyone who looks at foul count is an idiot anyway, any ref who does is incompetent. The call after Colby Jones made a great steal was hilariously bad, as was the one that fouled him out.

Xavier’s freshman aren’t ready

Desmond Claude played 16 minutes, had an offensive rating of 73, and couldn’t stay with Xavier Johnson on defense. He had one particularly bad turnover where he dribbled into a cul de sac and just never had anywhere to go but straight out of bounds. Kam Craft played a minute.

Their struggles aren’t solely theirs, though. Excepting Adam Kunkel, Xavier’s bench had a line of 2/1/2 in 28 minutes. They also managed a block, two steals, and two turnovers. That, needless to say, is terrible. Xavier won’t win games against any big opponent if that is all the bench can do.