|"I really do despise them."|
When these two teams last met, Xavier had just polished off URI and UMass by a combined total of 66 points and were looking to start the "second season" better than they had ended the first. Dayton had gone 12-3 against a reasonably difficult non-conference schedule, but had stumbled out of the A-10 gate with a surprise loss against UMass. They were looking for a win against X to both boost their at-large resume and move them into meaningful contention for the A-10 title.
The game itself was hotly contested and physical, as games between these two teams always are. The teams were within a possession or so of each other the whole way; X looked to be opening things up with a 42-36 lead early in the second half, but UD came back with an 11-4 run to go on top. Xavier's bigs were manhandled on the glass all night; Kenny and McLean combined for as many boards as Chris Wright grabbed by himself. Dayton outrebounded X 30-25 overall and 11-6 on the offensive boards. Dayton guard Juwan Staten - known more for his ability to create assists without committing turnovers - led the way for Dayton with 17 points on 6-10/1-1/4-5 shooting.
|Big Kenny came to play (offense).|
Since that game, Cheek has continued to evolve, Dante has shaken off the doldrums, and X has taken control of the A-10 with a sterling February. XU still gets the fewest bench minutes of any team in the nation, but Robinson, Taylor, and Canty have all looked more like viable options of late. UD has struggled through the conference season, dropping home games to Richmond and Temple and roadies at Duquesne and URI. A home win against suddenly struggling Duquesne (called it!) shows the Flyers still have a pulse, but they're going to have to be special for the next three weeks to make the NCAA tournament.
|These guys have all been president since UD won at X.|
Keys to the game:
-Rebound: Xavier is first in the conference in defending the glass and sixth in grabbing offensive boards; Dayton is third and seventh, respectively. XU got outmuscled and outhustled on the boards at Cintas; letting that happen at UD Arena would be a recipe for disaster.
-Be ready for physicality: In the few off games Tu has had this year, he seems to have been put off his game early by a defense that will hack, slap, bump, and otherwise impede him under the watchful eye of the officiating staff without any fouls being called. Just as importantly, the bigs have to come in ready to fight for real estate in and around the paint. If X can take a lickin' and keep on tickin', they'll go a long ways toward putting themselves in a position to win. In the meantime, don't expect X to shoot 22 second half free throws this time around.
-Play the game: Xavier has enough talent to not need anyone to try to be a hero against UD. As long as everyone executes within his role and nobody is afflicted by a rush of blood to the head, the Muskies have it in them to take care of business.
-I may have mentioned this above, but road wins are hard to come by in this rivalry. UD is not on par with Xavier in terms of talent, but the home court advantage probably puts these two teams on level pegging. I give this one a 3.