Sometimes games come down to one moment. Xavier held Villanova to one of their last 10 from the floor. The Musketeers fought their way back on the road against one of the top teams in the conference. They went stone cold, went down double digits, and fought all the way back again. They got the stop when they needed it, got the rebound, then got a timeout for a clean look.
This game, everything else excepted,somehow came down to two of those moments. Both of them were in the hands of Des Claude. Before the game one of our questions had to do with what was wrong with Des. Whatever it is, it cost Xavier the game tonight. Twice he had chances to win the game for X, twice he missed looks as clean as anyone will ever get in a college basketball game. Xavier is desperately trying to save their season. Tonight is a miss opportunity of the highest magnitude.
Des Claude isn’t value added right now
On defense Des was so bad that Sean Miller nearly blew a heart valve in his eagerness to take him out. Des was just flat lazy late and it cost X three points. On back to back possessions Jordan Longino ran past him for a layup. Longino, mind you, went 1-8 on his other attempts. On offense Des missed the two biggest shots of the season and finished 11/3/2 on 5-17 shooting. He was -7 for the night, worst on the team. Right now Des is not helping this team. He either will, or this season ends well short of the NCAA. He has to get better. His offensive rating of 76 is his worst of the season.
Xavier has to finish chances
10-21 around the rim is bad. You knew that already. Xavier got their looks in a first half where there was contact aplenty allowed, they just couldn’t finish. In the second half they were marginally better at 6-11, but that’s way too many points left clinging to the rim. I’ve piled on Des Claude enough to not dwell on how many were his. Neither Abou Ousmane nor Sasa Ciani were effective either. Just bad.
Xavier fought incredibly hard
Villanova just could not bury the Musketeers tonight. No matter what happened, Xavier came back. It was a rock fight, Xavier hung tough. Nova slowed the pace, Xavier choked them off the offensive glass. Xavier tried to trap, tried to push pace, tried everything they had. They just refused to wilt and eventually got themselves in position to win the game not once, but twice, after holding Nova without a field goal for the final 6:07. Then they missed two uncontested looks...
The officiating was really weird
In the first half the officiating was excellent. The game was physical, but it was even both ways and players knew what they were getting. It is absolutely infuriating that the refs came out in the second half and try to assert themselves. In the first half there were 10 fouls called. No one complained, no one wanted anything different. Then the refs came out and called 21 in the second half. Why? God alone knows.
The window is closing
Xavier needs big Q1 wins. One more chance for that is gone. No one will care come Selection Sunday that this was a close game. There are no good losses. Two inches worth of Des Claude shots are the difference between this being a great night and it being a bad one.