|Dante being Dante|
Charlotte started the game on a 7-0 run and if it is possible for a crowd to sound uneasy, this one did. The Musketeers, however, were not about to let this one slip away. Dante Jackson made it 7-5 with his first of four three pointers, and X slowly played themselves back into it. When Jamel McLean gathered three offensive rebounds in one possession and finally scored to make it 15-13 Xavier, the writing was on the wall.
|Frease dominated inside|
|McLean was simply too athletic|
At the half it was 36-25, Xavier and Coach Chris Mack opined that Charlotte's 17 half court points were an amount he could live with any day. In the second half the 49ers only managed 23 more against a Musketeer defense that was simply too athletic for them.
|Dante says goodbye|
Missing from his usual spot at the top of the scoring chart was Tu Holloway. Have no fear though, he made a conscious decision to take a backseat to the seniors today. Jackson said that "Tu came out and decided he wanted to be a facilitator" tonight. His eight assists to only two turnovers speaks volumes about his ability to do just that.
Dante Jackson: 18-7-1 and four steals for the man who said "I just felt like we were playing so hard, that we wanted it so, so bad." Dante was extremely active on both ends of the floor and it was obvious the team was feeding off his energy. 6-10 from the floor and 4-7 from behind the arc are great numbers for a player who is often the fourth offensive option.
Jamel McLean: 11-13-0 for Dante's fellow starting senior. Jamel was way, way too much for whoever Charlotte ostensibly had on him down low. Time and again he outworked his man and he finished the game with six offensive rebounds to show for it.
Not so much:
Jeff Robinson: 2-2-1 in 18 minutes for enigmatic big man. Jeff looked almost depressed at points tonight and was completely lacking the verve he'd shown in the past two games. I'm at a loss as to what makes him tick.
Xavier basketball means something a bit different to all of us. Tonight we saw the emotion from Dante Jackson as he laughed, waved, and smiled his way off the court at the end, we saw three young men in Johnny Mazza, Kevin Feeney, and Joe Hughes be rewarded for hours and hours of unseen toil with a couple precious moments in front of the home crowd, we saw Jamel McLean celebrate senior night by simply doing what he always does. In all of this, though, we saw our team.
Maybe you'll take something different away from tonight than I did. Maybe you'll remember the no look over the shoulder pass Tu threw, but forget Feeney's block at the buzzer. Maybe you'll remember Kenny Frease catching perfectly weighted passes more than you'll remember Mark Lyons throwing them, maybe you'll look back and admire Andrew Taylor's dedication to playing through the pain. Either way, take some time to appreciate this moment. Your team, the one they said was rebuilding, the one that started 8-5, the one that lost its best recruit and best shooter in the preseason, is, once again, the Atlantic 10 Conference Champion. That, my friends, is something we can all revel in.