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Takeaways from a beatdown: Xavier handles SEL

Xavier needed to get right after a tough week, and they did just that.

Syndication: The Enquirer
Ah, the happy winning coach
Albert Cesare / USA TODAY NETWORK

Xavier had spent Thanksgiving week almost collecting big wins. Instead, the Musketeers had fallen short against two of college basketball’s powers and suffered a media bollocking from their head coach who, in no uncertain terms, questioned their mental toughness, their defense, and their ability to play for Xavier. What he wanted was better defense and more competitive fire. He got it tonight.

Xavier can play defense...sometimes

In the first half tonight, Xavier absolutely stifled the SEL offense. That is, admittedly, something less than stopping Gonzaga, but it was a start. X contested every shot well, dominated the glass to an almost hilarious level, and looked like a team determined to impress their coach. That same coach was yanking anyone the instant he felt their defensive effort wasn’t up to par. The Lions scored 19 points in 20 minutes.

And then Xavier became themselves again. Yes, it was a 40 point lead, yes it was garbage time, and yes, it was Xavier’s bench players, but the Musketeers allowed 44 points. Not great.

Turnovers are still a problem

The turnover rate tonight was 18.5%. That’s not horrendous, but it came against an SE Louisiana that doesn’t force turnovers at an incredible rate and the turnovers came from vital players for X. Souley Boum, Colby Jones, and Zach Freemantle all coughed it up three times. Against West Virginia that could turn into an absolute bloodbath.

Dieonte Miles made a free throw

Just felt that merited a mention.

There is some strength in depth here

Jerome Hunter only committed three fouls in 17 minutes tonight. While that only is doing some very heavy lifting, that meant Jerome was able to play enough to rack up 9/3/0. With the change in his game and the change in number, it wouldn’t be hard to convince a member of Xavier Nation that this was an entirely different Jerome Hunter than the one that struggled so mightily last year.

Dieonte Miles managed 7/5/1 in 14 minutes and played his usual excellent defense. If he is even the tiniest bit useful on offense, he’s a game changing piece off the bench. Jack Nunge chipped in 6/7/1 with four blocks. Kyky Tandy started today and went for 5/1/2. He still can find his stroke, he was 2-6 from the floor, but he’s safe with the ball and can defend well enough to play. If he’s solid for 15 minutes, Xavier is set at guard.

Finally, Kam Craft had 11/1/1 and looked like a deadeye shooter. His confidence seems to be growing, and with it his aggression. He’s been getting in good places all season and tonight it paid off. Desmond Claude also played a workmanlike 28 minutes and added six assists to go with only one turnover. With the freshman playing like that, this team suddenly looks much deeper. Zach Freemantle and Colby Jones were both just excellent. Bob Nunge is an absolute tank and now has a 50% offensive rebounding rate, far better than that of his brother.