Wake Forest Scoring: Codi Miller-McIntyre 11, Coron Williams 10, Devin Thomas 9, Travis McKie 6, Madison Jones 6, Tyler Cavanaugh 4, Andre Washington 3, Arnaud Adala Moto 3, Aaron Rountree 1
Key Performance: Looking at the boxscore, it's easy to select Matt Stainbrook as the key performer. His stat line of 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting with 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block, jumps off the page. His performance was even bigger than those numbers suggest. On a night where Xavier played well but struggled to make shots, Stainbrook was a constant. He was money every time he had the ball in position to score as shown by his shooting percentage for the night. In the first half, a few of his buckets kept Wake Forest from ever truly gaining any type of sizable lead when the Musketeers were going through some offensive droughts. In the second half, he put the offense on his back, scoring on three straight possessions after Wake cut X's lead from 22 to 12 with just over 7:00 to play. By the 5:00 mark they were back up by 17, and the game was out of hand. Stainbrook had looked a little sluggish immediately following the trip to the Bahamas, but he seems to have completely gotten his groove back over the last three games. The Musketeers will need him to continue that heading into Big East play.
Good Stat: The keys to the game have remained pretty much the same for Xavier against the last three opponents with similar profiles, and the biggest factor that has contributed to Xavier's success in those games has been their dominance on the glass. Saturday's win was a "weight-room game" for the Musketeers, as their work in the offseason when it comes to strength training allowed them to bully the Demon Deacons in the paint. Matt Stainbrook and Isaiah Philmore specifically had their way underneath for Xavier, but even James Farr and Justin Martin were more physical than their opponents and helped provide an edge on the glass. The Musketeers out-rebounded Wake 50-34, and held an 18-10 advantage on the offensive boards.
Bad Stat: Matt Stainbrook and James Farr definitely provided an offensive spark Saturday, and the Musketeers really won the game with their defense. And that's a good thing, because outside of Stainbrook, the rest of the starters went a combined 10-of-37 from the field. Justin Martin got the opportunity to play more minutes, and was more aggressive in looking for his shot. It didn't work out in X's favor though, as Martin struggled mightily with his shot, going just 2-of-9 from the field and 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. Philmore also had a difficult time scoring and had his shot blocked multiple times inside. He finished just 1-of-9 from the field with four points. Off the bench, even Myles Davis had a poor night shooting, with an 0-for-4 mark from the field, including 0-for-2 from three. When you see that Xavier only shot 39 percent from the field and went just 4-of-19 from the 3-point line, it makes the 15-point win even more impressive in some ways.
X's Defense Sparks Another Decisive Run: In the Musketeers' big road win at Alabama, their defense held the Crimson Tide without a field goal for over nine minutes, which allowed them to go on a 29-16 run to close out the game and get the win. Saturday evening the Musketeers had an even more impressive defensive run that held Wake Forest without a field goal for the final 9:30 of the half, during which the Musketeers went on a 20-3 run to take a 15-point halftime lead. After the under 8:00 media timeout, Wake held a 24-22 lead, but the tide quickly shifted. The Demon Deacons came out in a 2-3 zone, but Semaj Christon countered with a three on the first possession that put X back in front 25-24. Then back-to-back steals by Myles Davis and Christon eventually led to an easy layup for Matt Stainbrook off an assist from Christon. Another steal by Dee Davis on the next possession led to another layup for Stainbrook. Then two more steals, by Stainbrook and Philmore, eventually led to an and-one by Christon to make it 32-24 at the under four media timeout. Xavier had four straight steals on defense, four offensive rebounds and went on a 10-0 run in the four minute war. Immediately out of the media timeout, X continued the onslaught with a tip-in by James Farr and a layup by Christon off the assist by Myles Davis, which extended the Musketeers' run to 14-0. Wake Forest didn't score from the 9:30 mark when Cody Miller-McIntyre made a three to put Wake ahead 24-22 until the 1:36 mark when he made a pair of free-throws to cut his team's deficit to 12, 38-26. The Musketeers led 42-27 at halftime, and never looked back.
Post Continues to Be Productive: Xavier pulled off another win, and another impressive win at that, without Semaj Christon having a great game offensively. He wasn't bad. He made some great offensive plays. But he finished just 5-of-13 from the field, only got to the free-throw line for two shots, and finished with 12 points. He did grab five rebounds, dish out four assists, and pitched in on defense with two steals and two blocks, which was the case last week against Alabama as well. It's good to see that he's still able to play at a high level in other areas of his game and play a big role defensively when he isn't scoring, but the reason the Musketeers have been able to still win games without him scoring a lot is the play of the post rotation, specifically Matt Stainbrook, Isaiah Philmore and James Farr. The trio has proven to be reliable over arguably the biggest three game stretch of the season so far, and they combined for 38 points and 26 rebounds again Saturday night. Against Alabama they scored 40 points and grabbed 20 boards together, and against UC they had 23 points and 19 rebounds. Over the three game stretch, they're averaging 33.6 points and 21.6 rebounds per game. They've helped carry the offense in terms of production, and they've also eliminated the ability for the other team to score off of second chance shots at the other end. That has been huge, but it doesn't even mention the important shots that all three have made during the stretch, nor does it count the importance of the flexibility Stainbrook has provided on the offensive end by being able to run the offense through him. Last year it always felt like Xavier was a one-trick pony that needed a lot of things to go right in order to win. Right now, this team is showing that they've got a little more margin for error, and that's mostly due to the post play of Stainbrook, Farr and Philmore.
Quotable: "We're going to play some rugged, physical, long, athletic teams. If we get Jalen going and Erik gets back healthy, I'd put our post play up against any team in the country. There might be better athletes, but I think we have a really good combination of things around the basket. Whether it's Isaiah Philmore rebounding the way he is on the offensive end; Matt Staimbrook's high IQ, he can deal with double-teams, he can score, he can draw fouls; James Farr can offensive rebound and stretch the defense, Jalen Reynolds, as catches up to the speed of the game, he can provide shot-blocking and rebounding on both ends; and Erik Stenger has always been a high-energy player. We really need those two to come along, and when they do that I think our frontcourt is as good as anyone." - Chris Mack on his post players heading into Big East play.
Takeaway: This was the type of win you wanted to see if you're a Xavier fan. The emotionally charged Crosstown Shootout win is fun, but it's tough to take much away from it in terms of where the team is at and where it's headed. The win over Alabama was good in the sense that it showed that this team wouldn't fold at the first sight of adversity in its first true road game, but that was far from a convincing win against a middle of the road SEC team. Wake Forest isn't a great team by any means, but for Xavier to jump on top of them early and coast to an easy win in a dominant performance is a good sign. As noted, the interior play the Muskies have been receiving from Stainbrook, Philmore and Farr has been huge, and is a great sign heading into Xavier's first year in the Big East.