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The Purdue game shows Xavier is on the right track this year

Moral victories are still losses where it matters, but what Xavier showed in their biggest game in November makes me hopeful for March.

Syndication: Journal-Courier
I'm glad this guy is back.
Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Xavier was on the ropes early in the second half against Purdue. I was concerned, as shown by this tweet:

With Zach Edey standing a full six inches taller than anyone on Xavier's roster and having just drawn the fourth foul on the only Muskie within half a foot of him in height, it looked like he was about to bury the game and walk away from Xavier on his own. A 20-point loss for X looked like a not unrealistic potential outcome.

Instead, the Muskies bowed up and went blow-for-blow with KenPom's #1 team in the nation for the last 17+. Obviously this isn't as good as doing it for a full 40, but it was the only option the team had left at the point in time. The best part is that it was done almost entirely through guys who have eligibility remaining beyond this season.

With Abou Ousmane fouling out in 10 minutes, Sasa Ciani was called upon to fill the paint for Xavier. He performed admirably; while Edey still got his, it never looked like he was scoring at will against Ciani. Ciani made him earn every bucket, he just happened to be good for it. Gytis Nemeiksa did his part to try to pull Edey away from the rim on the other end, cashing out on 2-5 from deep and hitting a couple of long twos.

Des Claude was not good in the first half, but he sprung to life in the second, scoring 12 on 5-7 shooting and only turning the ball over once. He was conspicuous by his lack of production before the half, but he stepped up in a big way after the interval. He's still only a sophomore, but Xavier needs him to carry an upperclassman's burden; he showed flashes of that against Purdue.

Dailyn Swain and Trey Green, despite being fairly dissimilar players, posted identical 10/1/2 lines. Swain didn't look like a freshman at all, belying the fact that he's actually really young for his class. He's a super defender already and he scored comfortably without forcing his way into the game. Trey Green plays 100% in some sort of bonkers attack mode, which was sometimes as harmful as it was helpful, but he looked like an electric force at times on offense.

Kachi Nzeh was fairly anonymous with 2/1/0 in 11 minutes, but the freshman bench mob combined to provide 26/8/4 in 75 minutes of play. Some of that extended run was due to Ousmane's foul trouble, but just as much of it was due to productivity. Quincy Olivari will no doubt have better shooting nights than he did at Mackey, but Green's incandescence and Swain's flexibility gave Xavier other options without having a spent down in the standard of play.

All of this is without Lazar Djokovic, who may well be the star of this recruiting class for Xavier. He's still working his way back from a hand injury, but - given the timetable set by Coach Miller - should be making his debut in short order.

Injuries and the kind of recruiting gaps that always accompany coaching changes have hollowed out Xavier's roster a bit this season. Sean Miller made the first part of the transition look like light work by getting X back to the second weekend of the tournament last year. With the kind of underclassmen production Xavier just got on the road against the best team in the nation, he has set himself and the program up very well for the next steps.