My favorite part of this game was absolutely all of it, but it peaked when the unit, and new Xavier graduate assistant, that is BJ Raymond banged home a three pointer. The Cintas crowd roared, BJ celebrated, took himself out, and laughed and high fived his way down the bench. For Xavier fans who know the history of their program, it was a moment that will bring smiles for a long time. For those of us bringing up another generation of fans, it was time to cue up 2008. The Basketball Tournament is built for moments like that, and Zip Em Up delivered in spades.
The reason BJ had the chance to drain that three and then high five CJ Anderson is because the rest of the roster had eviscerated Sweet Home Alabama. Semaj Christon, perhaps the least heralded best player Xavier has ever had, was impossible to stay in front of. He created, scored, and ran past defenders in equal parts. What could have been questions will always be attached to him, but tonight he came out and showed why he was considered such a supreme talent. He finished with an effortless 13/3/8 in 22 supremely confident minutes of play.
Joining Christon in double digit scoring were Trevon Bluiett (11), JP Macura (11), Matt Stainbrook (13, 5-5 from the floor), Kaiser Gates (13), and Nate Johnson (10). Kerem Kanter chipped in eight points and tied for the team lead with Gates with eight rebounds.
This game wasn’t about stats though. It was about JP getting a technical and then a standing ovation. It was about BJ Raymond high fiving Nate Johnson, who was nine when BJ hit that three. It was about Paul Scruggs in a Mark Lyons jersey, Dee Davis throwing a no look lob, Kaiser Gates dunking everything, Justin Martin draining a transition three up 30, Matt Stainbrook leaving the ball on a spin move so sick his man ended up running away from the basketball, and Trevon from the corner with that signature spin and finger snap as the ball went through. It was about remembering some great players, moments, and eras in Xavier basketball, and also reminding the nation that this school is a power.
The nostalgia was in the air in the Cintas on this Monday night. If you watched this game without a smile on your face, I don’t know what to tell you. The Basketball Tournament started for people who love the game and has evolved into, for Xavier Nation at least, a chance to see an entire team of fan favorites take the court together. The chemistry is incredible, the fans were incredible, the team was incredible. It gets much, much harder from here, but that was as perfect a night as the Cintas has hosted. Enjoy some highlights and pics.