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November 22, 2012

Xavier falls to Pacific in quarterfinals

Xavier was disappointingly eliminated from the championship bracket of the 2012 Direct TV Classic in the first round, the quarterfinals, on Thanksgiving Day, as they fell to upset minded Pacific by a score of 70-67.

The game wasn't decided until the final buzzer when a Dee Davis heave from 30 feet clanked off the iron, but would not fall, giving the Tigers a victory in Anaheim.

Despite having four players in double figures in the scoring column - Semaj Christon had 18, Travis Taylor scored 13, Dee Davis chipped in 14, and Justin Martin added on 11 - The Musketeers were unable to win the game because of their inability to find ways to get defensive stops, something that started early and became a problem for the large majority of the game.


After Semaj Christon kick started a 9-0 start for Xavier, in which the Musketeers were applying excellent pressure in the half-court defensively, Pacific took a timeout to talk things over just four minutes into the game.
From that point on the Tigers really turned things up.

Pacific went on a 14-2 run over the next six minutes, while Xavier went scoreless for over five minutes. At that point the Tigers held a 16-11 lead over Xavier with 8:00 left in the half. The Tigers were routinely able to find their off the bench sharpshooter Trevin Harris in this stretch, as Harris knocked down four first-half three-pointers en route to a team high 16 points, on perfect 6/6 shooting.

Xavier and Pacific exchanged baskets over the remainder of the first half, ending with Pacific taking a 32-30 lead into the locker room.

Things looked good for Xavier coming out of the break as the Musketeers played with more energy and aggression offensively early in the period, led by two opening layups from Christon, who at times was able to take over the game on the offensive end of the floor.

However, midway through the half the Tigers dealt the Musketeers a hard blow as they opened up a 7-0 run to take a seemingly commanding lead at 56-46 with just 9:15 to go in the game.

But, after back to back and-one layups by Semaj Christon then Dee Davis the Musketeers pulled back to within four at 58-54 with 6:00 remaining.

Pacific then got two unlikely boosts which changed the game. First, Xavier was called for a questionable offensive foul. After that, the Tigers then got two consecutive jumpers from guard Sama Taku, who scored all eight of his points in the second half.

Now down by eight at 64-56, with just 3:34 remaining, the Musketeers began to employ a full-court press to try and reverse their fortunes.

Pacific countered with a matchup 3-2 zone defense to slow Xavier down, but after Justin Martin stole the ball and buried a three-pointer in transition with 2:00 left the Musketeers found themselves trailing just 64-61.

But from there it was all Tigers. Taku scored again to extend the lead to six, then Pacific forced two straight turnovers that resulted in layups; essentially icing the game at 70-61 with just 49 seconds left.

There was no quit in the Musketeers, however, as Dee Davis and then Justin Martin each knocked down three-point shots to bring the deficit to just 70-67 with 4.3 seconds left and Pacific taking the ball out of bounds.
Semaj Christon was able to foul Pacific guard Lorenzo McCloud and send him to the line for the one-and-one bonus without any time running off the clock.

But after the McCloud miss Xavier was only able to get off a desperation heave, which fell off target, and Pacific held on to advance to the semifinals behind a score of 70-67.

The Tigers were led by the 16 points of Harris, but had 9 players make at least two field goals in the game. Entering the game Harris was averaging just 2.7 points, but found his stroke early and often against Xavier. Pacific's leading scorer heading into the night, McCloud, might have only managed 6 points, but was clutch late along with Taku.

In the end there were a few separating statistics which made the difference in the game. First, Xavier was outrebounded again, this time by a margin of 30-22 against a team with less size and athleticism then the Musketeers have.

Second, Xavier was outscored by a whopping 44-7 off of the bench.

Finally, the Musketeers struggled in the paint as well. In addition to being outscored in the lane 32-24, the Musketeers were not very efficient in stopping Pacific big men from getting off easy shots, while Xavier was confused offensively and struggled to outlet the ball when Pacific doubled down on Taylor and other Xavier big men.

The Musketeers allowed the Tigers to shoot 57% from the field for the game, including 6 three-point makers, while Xavier was only able to knock down 48% of their shots.

In addition to the double-figure scoring of Christon, Davis, Martin, and Taylor, Xavier got 5 points from Isaiah Philmore in his Musketeer debut, 4 points from Jeff Robinson, and 2 points from Brad Redford.

Christon was the high assist man for Xavier with 6, while Justin Martin led in the rebounding department with 4. Philmore added 4 rebounds and 2 blocked shots to pace the Musketeers.

The Musketeers will return to action in Anaheim on Friday at 6:00 PM EST against Drexel University on ESPNU. Drexel was defeated on Thursday in their quarterfinal game by Saint Mary's.

For Xavier to win their next two games in Anaheim, and take home fifth place, the Musketeers will have to focus on being more sound defensively in the half-court, play with more aggression and consistency in the half-court on offense, and look to continue to balance their scoring.


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