|Jeff Robinson, Meaningful Player|
In the preview Joel called this the classic trap game. The Bonnies mid 90s rankings in RPI and SOS seemed pretty meaningless compared to Dayton before them and Temple after. The key to this game was to bury the Bonnies early and not give them a chance to sneak into the game. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
The game started with a Kenny Frease turnover and To Holloway fadeaway that barely caught iron. After that, the Bonnies sensed they were in the game. A 14-3 deficit that Coach Chris Mack said felt like "at least 102-3" was soon staring the Muskies in the face.
Xavier's rescue came from a most unlikely source. Jeff Robinson has been struggling this year. Expected to be an athletic presence who could occasionally stretch a defense, Robinson had instead been timid and shaky after his 15 point outburst against Iowa. In fact, after that game Robinson had not scored more than four in a game as he seemed to drift aimlessly along. Too good to stay out of it all year, Jeff picked a great time to come back with a vengeance.
Last night Xavier desperately needed someone to wake them up. Tu Holloway was frustrated, Kenny Frease and Jamel McLean each turned the ball over twice in the first seven minutes and Dante Jackson remained stuck in the 2009-10 season. Cue the return, then, of Jeff Robinson, Meaningful Player.
With 13 minutes to play and Xavier down 14-3, Robinson grabbed an offensive rebound and stuck it back. 18 seconds later he made a steal and trailed the break down the floor to convert what Joe Sunderman called "a two-handed tomahawk dunk." Robinson wasn't done yet though. After St. Bonaventure pushed the lead back to 12, Robinson knifed through the defense to score again.
After Robinson woke the Muskies up, Mark Lyons was determined not to let them go back to sleep. Lyons seemed to be everywhere in the first half, a somewhat confused Byron Larkin proclaimed he was "literally in two places at once" on one possession, and it was his offense that carried the comeback Robinson had started. Lyons shot 4-11 in the first half, but his back to back threes, and subsequent flexing at the crowd, had Xavier back within three late. Lyons' shooting line wasn't great, but his tenacity was vital. Down 35-30 at the half though, the Musketeers had to be wondering where their star guard had gone.
As it turned out, Tu Holloway hadn't gone anywhere. Apparently a firm believer in playing himself into a game, Holloway buried a three with 16:15 to play and then fed Jeff Robinson for a dunk and a 40-39 lead less than a minute later. From then on, it was all Tu. When Andrew Nicholson fouled out with seven minutes to play St. Bonaventure's upset bid was done and dusted. Holloway ran rampant in the second half and the Musketeers walked away with a win.
- Jeff Robinson had 12-4-0 but his aggression early in the game got a Xavier team that was mostly still on the plane into the game.
- Mark Lyons 5-15 shooting won't win over any of his detractors but his 15-8-5 were vital to the Musketeers. When Holloway takes a half off, Lyons has to step up, and he did.
- Tu Holloway's second half 22 were a masterpiece of a effciency. 5-9 from the floor, 4-5 from behind the arc, and 8-8 from the line on the game, Holloway took over when he smelled blood on the water.
Not so much:
- Dante Jackson remains mired in the biggest slump of his career. 4-1-1 on 1-2 from all three shoot categories doesn't merit a starting spot. To Jackson's credit, he did avoid shooting the Musketeers out of the game.
- This was a trap game, and X played it like one. Beating bad teams on the road is necessary to winning the conference, but doing it with more conviction would be nice. That said, winning when playing badly surely beats losing when playing poorly. The Muskies overcame their own sloppiness to gut out a win over a game Bonnies squad.
Next game: vs. Temple Saturday at 3pm on ESPN2