|Dante is, assuredly, just behind Green|
Xavier seemed lost late in the game without their leader. Mark Lyons made an admirable effort but even he deferred to Holloway with a minute to play and the game still in the balance. The team will need to learn how to play on nights when Tu isn't scoring.
On Tuesday I said that Charlotte wouldn't factor into this game unless the Musketeers let them. With 11 minutes left in the first half and X leading 16-4 while the 49ers were 1-11 from the floor, it certainly seemed like business would be handled. What happened after that, though, is the kind of thing coaching nightmares are made of.
The Musketeers, seemingly assured that the game was out of reach, took their foot off of the proverbial gas. For once though, it wasn't a defensive letdown that let a team back into a game. Xavier seemed puzzled by the most simplistic of defenses, the 2-3 zone. Kenny Frease was unable to get touches on the block (only five shots all game) and it ended up devolving to Mark Lyons to run the free throw line in the middle of the zone. Coach Mack seemed uncharacteristically unable to adjust, and things degenerated from there.
I could go into more detail about the game, but you all know what happened. Instead, let's look at what can be fixed before St. Louis and Georgia.
1. Adjust to the zone- If St. Louis or Georgia attempt to copy Charlotte and sit back, Xavier needs to adjust. Against Charlotte the X-men took 20 three pointers. That is not the way to beat a zone unless you are an excellent shooting team. Xavier is not, so they need to stick with the high-low combination of McLean and Frease. Mark Lyons did a good job running through the middle of the zone, but his size is limiting.
2. Adjust to the game- Late in the game it was clear that this was not Tu's night. Despite that, the other Musketeers kept looking to him to make plays. Several of his 17 field goal attempts came late in the shot clock when it was clear the rest of the Xavier players just expected him to make something happen. To Tu's credit, he didn't shirk the responsibility. Unfortunately, he also didn't come through. Lyons and McLean were both playing well and shifting focus to them would have sparked the offense.
3. Get some bench production- Xavier went seven deep against Charlotte, and it showed. Jay Canty's return will help, but five bench points will not win you many games. Jeff Robinson has been active and effective lately but didn't get the ball enough to be a factor. He needs to show more confidence in his shot and not be afraid to create at times.
Mark Lyons: 25/5/3 with a steal, a block, and only one turnover. Lyons has been fantastic in conference play, and that continued at Charlotte. It's good to see him getting back some of the swagger that seems to propel him.
Jamel McLean: 17/10/0 brings McLean's season averages to 11.5 ppg and 8.9 rpg. That's consistent and exceptional play coming from someone who is still contending with the effects of breaking bones in his face.
Not so much-
Tu Holloway: 3-17 from the floor, 0-8 from behind the arc and six turnovers. An absolutely rotten game from Tu and hopefully one that won't dent his confidence going forward.
Dante Jackson: We said last week that Jackson is useful as long as he defends well. On Tuesday night, he didn't even do that. The enduring image of the game for me is of Derrio Green running past Jackson on consecutive possessions with three minutes left. Both times Dante put a hand up as if to say "my fault." When you score no points and secure only one rebound, a raised hand is not sufficient apology.
Final thoughts: Recovering from this game is key. No one expected 16-0 in conference and the damage from this loss is easily repaired with a win over Duquesne. St. Louis should represent a chance to bounce back and get back to winning ways.
Next game- Xavier v. St. Louis, Saturday @ 11 on ESPNU.