Tight Defense and Hot Shooting Lead XU to Win

Early play from Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway gave Xavier a thirteen point halftime lead, which they held throughout the second half in a 77-64 win over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. MusketeerScoop attended the game and came away with some notes on the Xavier performance from both ends of the floor:
Total Defensive Effort:
-Pick and roll defense: Xavier came out and hard blitzed all of the SBU ball screens very effectively; keeping the Bonnies out of the paint and making it tough for them to throw the ball inside to Andrew Nicholson. The quick feet of Jeff Robinson and Andre Walker were especially good at stopping ballhandlers.
- Double on Nicholson effective early: Xavier waited until Nicholson put the ball on the floor before sending the double team and then when Nicholson was able to pass out the Musketeers did an excellent job of recovering to shooters. With Nicholson frustrated on the low block, especially because Andre Walker did such a nice job of staying down on Nicholson's head fakes, the 6'10 forward resorted to taking perimeter shots. While Nicholson scored 20 points they were tough points, and he also was forced into 5 turnovers.
-Limiting offensive rebounds: The rebounding battle finished even at 30 to 30 but Xavier did a great job in limiting SBU to only 7 offensive rebounds for the game. The Bonnies are not a good shooting team, and have few weapons outside of Nicholson. When they were held to one shot it was very tough for them to get a good look at the basket.
-Deflections: Xavier forced 15 turnovers, including grabbing 6 steals, and turned those mistakes into 14 XU fast break points. Xavier consistently got their hands on SBU passes and those deflections made the difference in the game.
Aggressive Offensive Performance:
-Guards attacking: From the get go it was obvious that Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons were simply too talented for SBU guards to defend. Both answered the call in this one as Lyons scored 21 points and Holloway added 12; while each tallied 3 assists in the game.
-Turnovers slow XU down: The Musketeers went from scoring at will to scoring sporadically, not because of the SBU defense but because of their inability to take care of the basketball. Besides missing 4 dunks the Muskies also committed 20 turnovers, many of them unforced.
-Two set plays: The Musketeers had the most success running two different offensive sets. First, they employed an empty side pick and roll (meaning that the other three players are on the weak side of the floor. This allows the screener more room to pop or roll and have an isolation against a defender that is recovering from stopping the ball; giving the roll man an advantage. Jeff Robinson scored off of this three times, while other guys scorer or got good shots off of it.). Secondly, the Muskies threw the ball to the trailing big man and looked high-low to the post at Kenny before going to a dribble handoff to the wing. Xavier got several good looks off of this as Lyons and Holloway turned the corner for drives or were able to kick it back to the big guy for wide open shots when the defense helped off the big men to stop their dribble penetration.
-Redford finds some offense: Brad Redford is really starting to regain his confidence as the fourth year junior knocked down two three point shots and tallied 10 total points in the win. The ability of Redford to stretch the floor just makes it so easy for Lyons and Holloway to attack the rim and score.
-Unheralded play of Robinson and Walker: Jeff Robinson put together his 2nd straight good game with 13 points (6/7 shooting) with 5 rebounds. Late when SBU started to make a run it was the five quick points of Robinson that put the dagger in SBU's heart. Walker showed a little more of a scorer's mentality today as he took the ball to the rim and shot a few perimeter jumpers, as well as his normal passing skills. For the game Walker finished with 8 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and only 1 turnover. Freshman wing Dez Wells also produced in this one as he tallied 7 points and 9 rebounds, with 3 assists.
Bad Stretch: In a game of mostly positives it needs to be pointed out that a 10-0 run with 5:00 to play cut the Xavier lead down to 13, when it was just at a game high 23. The Musketeers briefly took their foot off the pedal and it hurt them; it didn't kill them in this game but it is not a trend that we want to see in the future.
Rotational Changes: Coach Mack used some different lineups in this game, at one point playing small with Andrew Walker at the center position and then with two other lineups we saw Coach Mack go to four bench players with either Tu or Lyons running the point. As A-10 play continues the coaching aspect becomes more important and Coach Mack showed a willingness to make adjustments and some trust in his young players in this game.