Last Wednesday night/ early Thursday morning, I was writing about Xavier sputtering to an embarassing loss to DePaul. In that article, I said that good teams have bad games, and there was no serious reason to sound alarm bells on another collapse. The weekend showing against Georgetown didn’t do much to calm the nerves, but it did notch another number in the win column leading into a tough week. What happened wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but a welcome sign that this season might be different.
Xavier didn’t shrink out of this one. Yes, the Muskies were outscored by 12 in the second half, but had built up a 15 point cushion by the end of the first. I’m not great at math, but that tells me X still won. Despite UConn’s recent drop in form, they still remain one of the best teams in the nation. They rode their home crowd and Jordan Hawkins right back into a game they didn’t seem interested in in the first half. Despite the crowd, despite Hawkins catching fire, X still punched back every time.
Souley Boum struggled last week, and he struggled hard against DePaul. The dude clearly has the memory of a goldfish becasue he looked like his old self against the Huskies. When UConn first cut into Xavier’s lead, it was Boum who nailed three after three to keep X firmly in the lead. I hadn’t previously realized how little room he needs to get a shot off. His release isn’t lightning quick, but if his defender is even half a step behind he has enough space. Boum punished the Huskies from beyond the arc, and, once again, sealed the deal at the line.
Instrumental in a huge Q1 road win was Xavier’s bench. Jerome Hunter continues to provide solid defense and winning plays in his time on the floor. His line of 11-3-2 isn’t gonna win him MVP, but it doesn’t need to. For a guy who looked lost at times a season ago, he has completely bought into his role this year, and has proved vital to Xavier’s success. Jerome Hunter fears no one he goes against. Speaking of which, Des Claude was an absolute beast. As if punching on Adama Sanogo wasn’t enough, he drove straight at the 10-ply Donovan Clingan, and finished through hard contact. While Claude has proven he is tough, he has also shown some refinement to his game. He dished 3 assists with no turnovers in a very hostile environment, and has shown he can be cool under pressure on several occassions.
This is a game that could have easily gotten away from X. It’s a game we’ve seen them let get away in recent memory. The big lead, an opposition player getting hot, and a tough road environment made it fell like it could all slip away in the second half. Instead, the Muskies made the plays they needed, and walked out with a road victory against one of the nation’s best teams.