Post-Mortem on Xavier-Creighton!!
Andy Mac Williams,
The game, obviously, was highly winnable for Xavier. The reality is a 72-67 loss to the 7th rated Creighton Blue Jays, three Muskie Big East defeats in a row and a 3-3 conference record (tied for 4th with Marquette). The Cintas Center win streak ends at 15 in a row.CU's been a pain in Xavier's posterior since the inception of the New Big East(5-3 record vs XU with two wins at CC in four trips). Villanova's won 2 of 3 in Cincy with trip four coming up Saturday February 11th. Overall,the Muskies are 23-7 in Big East home games a third of the way through their fourth year in the league with seasonal records of 7-2,6-3,8-1 for TEAM 94 and 2-1 so far for TEAM 95. XU has a ton of work to do with 12 BE games remaining. Their three losses are to the conference's top three teams(Villanova 6-1,Creighton 5-1 and Butler 5-2). The wins are over Providence(3-4),St Johns(3-4) and enigmatic Georgetown(1-5).
The free throw numbers stick out like a sore thumb. Creighton was efficient(11-12) while Xavier spit the bit(16-29). Give the Muskies credit for making the plays,taking the contact and getting the calls to create such a wide edge in FT tries. But you gotta press your advantage and drill the FTs against a veteran efficient scoring machine like CU.
Rashid Gaston dominated inside finishing with 12 points and 17 rebounds.He was flat out possessed!! If he makes his foul shots,he's in the running for BE Player of the Week. He played that well!!!! Xavier pounded Creighton on the glass at both ends of the floor(43-33 advantage in total rebounds with 18 offensive boards),but XU played volleyball over the last 60 seconds going 0-6 from the floor with copious point blank shots thus squandering a brief 67-66 lead. Nobodies' trying to miss!! They just did- including 2 of 3 last minute FTs.
Late half-late game execution problems cost Xavier wins at Butler and against Creighton( and at Colorado). BU closed the gap Saturday at Hinkle when it looked like XU might post a double digit halftime lead. Xavier missed an open three at the halftime buzzer vs Creighton that would have tied the game at 32-32.Xavier stormed back at Butler late in regulation,but fell one trip short. The Muskies took the lead late against Creighton,but could not hold onto it.
A functional Myles Davis would have helped win those games.He's a killer in those pressure situations. Maybe a full practice week between the Creighton loss and Sunday's Cintas rematch against Georgetown(2PM-CBS Network) will help #15 approach his normal playing level???
Xavier turned the ball over 17 times against Creighton. Loose ball handling was part of the problem,but XU was whistled for 7 charges-5 in the first half!! The zebras are looking for pushing off-warding off-clearing space with that lead shoulder and/or fore arm. Little guards like Butler's Tyler Lewis( and that Showalter dude from Wisconsin in last season's NCAAs) are experts at flopping and embellishing against XU's larger drivers. The officials probably aren't going to get any smarter about sniffing that acting junk out so XU will have to be more judicious and run better offense. Veteran Creighton subs Isaiah Zierden and Toby Hegner aren't midgets,but they know how to flop also.
CREIGHTON GETS HIGH MARKS:
Zierden ran the point efficiently in place of injured Mo Watson. The Blue Jays adjusted on the fly to a much slower tempo and won at Cintas where Xavier averages about 9 wins in every 10 games played. Hegner played a dagger 17 minutes covering for teammates' foul trouble(12 points-4 rebounds-5 for 7 FGs with two made threes).
XU could never get decent separation over CU. The Muskies led for just over 2 minutes with their biggest margin 3 points. Creighton is 18-1 for the best start in program history.
Watson is gone for the season though with a torn ACL. Unfortunatley,his career may be over. He sat out a transfer year arriving from Boston University. He's played 19 games so odds are the NCAA will not grant him a 6th year because of the injury.
SILVER LININGS FOR XAVIER:
Kaiser Gates played a strong 24 minutes(9 points-7 rebounds plus he can guard just about anybody). I may be crazy,but Gates matched up frequently against CU 7 footer Justin Patton and seemed to annoy him-bump him-crowd him and do well. Gates was on the floor at crunch time late. I thought the Muskies were gritty and focused defensively and the much more physical team. Finishing plays at the FT line and around the rim were the problems.