Monday, January 30, 2017

January 29th, 2017: Xavier at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Red Storm's second-half comeback fell short in Xavier's 82-77 win over St. John's. Shamorie Ponds had a game-high 23 points for the Red Storm in the losing effort. Trevon Bluett's 21 points and 10 rebounds led Xavier.

For confusion, seat squatting, dramatic refs, shoutouts, potential, and going through the looking glass, join your intrepid and mildly confused blogger after the jump.

And now for the spear counterpart to our first game.

I always forget how much bigger men's basketball is than women's basketball. There are so many more people on the court, and they're so much bigger than the women.

That was fast. Maya and the inactives are already out of the locker room.

I am perfectly okay with the men practicing without jerseys. Hellooooooo shoulders.

That is not how you use your head, Xavier manager.

This is a double-header. If you can show up an hour before the men's tip, you can show up for the first game of the doubleheader. Walking up to me and asking "what did the girls do?" Not going to endear you to me. Especially in a Redmen cap.

One of the dudes for Xavier is warming up in a vest. It zips in the front and everything.

At halftime, Xavier is up 32-25. It hasn't exactly been a sterling display of basketball. Edmond Sumner is the big scorer for the Musketeers today, with eight points at the half.

There was a little ceremony to honor the women's Big East title during one of the media timeouts. We squeed and cheered.

Halftime of this one honors the honor roll athletes, which is awesome. Congrats on that 4.0, Sandie! I see you out there getting ready to change the world. (A cynical part of me wonders if they did it during men's basketball because there were no MBB players to be honored.) For the love of God, someone give this man a pronunciation guide. (Wow, Moss is a volleyball badass and an honor roll student? Awesome.)

Well, that took rather longer than I was expecting. And it was rather closer than I was expecting. Can I just say that men's college basketball needs to join the rest of us in the quarter system as soon as possible, kplzthxbai.

I wasn't expecting Xavier to be the team that kept up with this weekend's theme of committing unnecessary shooting fouls. I wasn't expecting them to come so unglued. They have some great pieces, but if they're a ranked team, and if this game was anything close to characteristic of them, I don't want to hear about weakness in the women's rankings.

Shoutout to the women's basketball alumnae in the row behind us. We play for the ones who came before us and the ones who will come after us. (Or cheer, in my case.)

Quentin Goodin stepped up when Edmond Sumner went out with an injury. He shut the door with free throws and put away any chance of St. John's finishing the comeback. Sean O'Mara had family in the audience (his grandma had a sweatshirt and everything) and rewarded them with defense and a dunk. RaShid Gaston was tough as nails inside, boxing out and getting boards. He was a crucial piece for Xavier. Kaiser Gates did good work on the glass in the second half, but he and O'Mara both showed bad judgment in the fouls that they took.

J.P. Macura lists as a guard, but played much more like a forward, unafraid to get physical in the paint (or anywhere, really). Dude is tough. Tyrique Jones didn't play a lot, despite the start- Gaston was giving them a lot of good minutes. He made a couple of plays down the stretch, though.

Should I have heard of Edmond Sumner before? Pardon my MCBB ignorance, but the one or two times I've caught Xavier on TV, his was not the name that was being mentioned often. But he was brilliant until he left with the ankle injury, and I hope he's going to be okay. He penetrated the lane with ease and dished really well. Trevon Bluiett, despite the unfortunate last name, came up with big threes late in the game (I want to say fourth quarter, but the men's game doesn't have quarters). Malcolm Bernard came up with a lot of big rebounds late in the game; when Xavier missed, he was there to clean up on the offensive glass. Good speed.

Darien Williams came on strong for the Red Storm in the second half, making plays on both ends of the floor, but down the stretch he didn't execute. I don't understand why Tariq Owens, with four fouls, was out on the ballhandler when an intentional foul was called for. He had some monster, monster blocks out there (surprised he didn't get warned for taunting after the second in a house-rocking sequence). He's a strange-looking dude, gawky and maybe not yet completely sure how he got so tall. His teammates don't seem to trust him on offense yet. Richard Freudenberg wears Mullin's 20, and wears Mullin's flattop, but he doesn't seem to be ready for primetime yet. He needs to work on his shot, and on his confidence in his shot. Federico Mussini was inconsistent- glorious when the long shots went down, frustrating when he went 1-on-3 on the break. Judgment is the key here.

Coach really doesn't have much faith in Kassoum Yakwe- as soon as Yakwe got the fourth foul very early in the second half, he was on the bench, and stayed there even as the other forwards racked up fouls. I mean, I kind of get it- they were incredibly stupid fouls- but I'm not sure that's how I would have approached it. He's a great shot-blocker, but he can't block shots from the bench.

Four-guard sets always throw off my game notes. Harder to split up that way. Shamorie Ponds really has that finger roll with the extra oomph down. It's beautiful. There's a lot of potential there, but I don't know if he's ready to be the star of the show. I really enjoy watching him slash through the lane. Bashir Ahmed stepped up with big threes. I wasn't as impressed with Marcus LoVett as I though I should have been- he seemed very often to be overshadowed by his teammates. I think he and Ponds need another year together to be the superstar backcourt that I've already been hearing them touted as. On the flip side, I can't put my finger on a lot of Malik Ellison's plays, but he caught my eye. Sometimes a player has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

We have to play smarter. We have to be sharper. The potential is there. I think Chris Mullin can do a lot to build this program as a recruiter and as a marketer. He's a great GM. But he's not a coach. He needs a strategist as his good right hand man, someone to run the X's and O's. I don't know enough about the men's college scene to know who's out there for him to partner up with, but he needs someone.

I say I'll never complain about women's basketball officiating again, but you all know that's a lie. But these refs were not good. I'm also not used to that much theatrical behavior from refs- every gesture seemed bigger than life, like they were enjoying being on the big stage.

To the gentleman at the other end of the row below us: your indecisiveness concerns me. You say at multiple points that Coach Mullin should not be working the officials, and yet you yourself scream at the officials. Which is the more correct course of action?

Crowd was about the same size as a Liberty game, but honestly, Lib fans get more into it. Even when St. John's was on a run, the noise didn't really ratchet up. Now, granted, they couldn't use the organ or other Garden sound effects. It was still a little disappointing. (That being said, can we add the rolls of thunder to the crappy version of "Thunderstruck" we use at Carnesecca?)

I'm not sure what to think of either of these teams. I'm kinda glad the sojourn into the strange land is over, though. I don't know if I like it there.

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