Give Xavier’s big three all the credit in the world. They all took turns stepping up and providing the Muskies with buckets when needed. After falling behind by ten points at halftime, the Xavier trio combined for 33 of the Muskie’s 42 second-half points. Good enough for a one-point victory over Dayton, 70-69.
Tu Holloway was Xavier’s lone offensive threat in the first half, scoring ten points and keeping the Muskies within striking distance as they struggled from the foul line (a ghastly 6-of-16). He picked up where he left off in the second half, coming out hot and single-handedly wiping away UD’s lead before three minutes had even ticked off the clock. Chris Mack needed someone to take control of the game and the most likely suspect did just that, erasing a significant Flyer margin and completely changing the complexion of the game.
Frease was instrumental as well, scoring some easy baskets after the break and going 7-of-7 from the charity stripe in the second frame. I felt that the Frease/Kavanaugh matchup would dictate the outcome and certainly Kenny came out on top in that battle. The senior had 17 points and 7 rebounds, playing with an intensity that was sorely absent in the previous two matchups between the schools.
Mark Lyons acted as Xavier’s closer down the stretch. When the Musketeers needed points to close the gap late in the game, it was Lyons, not Holloway, who provided them.
For Dayton it was all Kevin Dillard, all of the time. Although Paul Williams chipped in some much needed threes in the first half, it was the Dayton point-guard that once against put the team on his back. The junior scored 18 crucial points and dished out 6 assists in the loss.
Whether it was flawed play-calling or run of the mill uneasiness, UD choked away the game over their final possessions. After taking a 69-63 lead on two Matt Kavanaugh free throws with 3:02 left on the clock, the Flyers failed to score a single point from that point forward. Mark Lyons tallied the game’s last seven points and the Muskies pulled out the one-point victory.
The Flyers last four possessions were pure buffoonery:
- After a pair of Lyons free throws, UD runs the shotclock down to the wire before Paul Williams turns it over. UD 69, XU 65.
- Lyons hits a layup and is fouled by Kav on the drive, he converts the freebie and suddenly X is within one. UD calls a timeout (!) and somehow ends up losing track of the shot clock. Dillard is forced to unload a desperation 35 footer that caroms off the backboard. Muskie ball. UD 69, XU 68.
- Holloway misses a tough three-pointer and UD gains possession. After calling another timeout (!), Chris Johnson misses a fairly clean look from behind the arc. Frease rebounds and Xavier has a chance to finally take the lead. UD 69, XU 68. (By the way, I’m pretty sure Fabrizius was in on this possession. The fuck, Archie?)
- Mack wisely elects to ride the momentum, passing on a timeout, and Lyons once again responds. He drives around Paul Willie and Kav, laying it off the glass shrewdly with his left hand. The ball meets twine and X has the lead back. UD calls a timeout (!), gets the ball in Dillard’s hands – who in turn penetrates and fires a great pass to an open Kavanaugh under the basket. Kav misses the easy shot and the ball bounces out of bounds off X. After another timeout (!), followed by a 30-second X timeout, CJ launches a forced three from the left corner. Game over, season over. XU 70, UD 69.
Archie took the blame after the contest, as a man getting paid an obscene amount of money coaching semi-pros should, but he can’t possibly shoulder all the accountability for what occurred over the final three minutes. You can’t get a better look than the one Kavanaugh had at the end of the game. After a nice feed from Dillard, Kav had an excellent opportunity a few feet from the hoop. The ball played “just the tip” with the rim and implausibly bounced out. Although Chris Johnson’s rushed fall away three-point chuck was farcically predictable, there were just five seconds on the clock, clearly not enough time to work the ball around for an open look (and why not let the senior go out shooting?).
Still, a team gets its cues and composure from their leader, their coach. Dayton burned four timeouts over the game’s final two minutes and didn’t look any better for it. They appeared tentative on defense and, outside of Dillard’s dump down to Kav, downright clueless on offense. It’s clear that Archie, like all coaches just 31 games into their career, still needs a bit of seasoning. That will come, assuredly, sooner rather than later.
I don’t want to spend any time rehashing the season, looking ahead to next year or recapping Dayton’s hits and misses (I don’t even want to acknowledge the bullshit technical called on Devin Oliver in the first half). There will be plenty of time for that. For now, understand that this season, however you choose to quantify it, was a success. Xavier was simply a play better tonight.