Quick Take: Georgetown 74 Xavier 52

Xavier loss to Georgetown, 74-52, Saturday afternoon in front of 11,854 fans at the Verizon Center. Read Rick Broering's quick take on the Musketeers' Big East loss.

Xavier Scoring: Semaj Christon 18, Justin Martin 13, Matt Stainbrook 12, Brandon Randolph 3, Isaiah Philmore 2, James Farr 2, Jalen Reynolds 2,

Georgetown Scoring: Markel Starks 22, Jabrill Trawick 13, Nate Lubick 9, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera 9, Mikael Hopkins 8, Aaron Bowen 7, Moses Ayegba 4, Bradley Hayes 2

Key Performance: There's really no one on Xavier's roster worth pointing out for their performance today, so this has to go to Markel Starks. He dominated the game. He was 7-of-14 from the field, 6-of-7 from the free-throw line, 2-of-4 from 3-point range (31.4% shooter), with four assists, three rebounds and only one turnover. Starks set a tone for his team with his intensity on both ends of the court. Xavier could have used someone with his fire today.

Good Stat: There wasn't much to choose from in this game, so this might be a bit of a reach, but after some recent struggles at the free-throw line the Musketeers were better from the charity stripe. They finished 16-of-20 from the line (80%). Georgetown was 19-of-26 (73.1%).

Bad Stat: The most telling two stats from this game that go hand-in-hand to an extent are Georgetown's 26-21 advantage on the glass as well as the Hoyas' 32-22 edge in points in the paint. Those are two categories where, even when they lose, X typically puts up good numbers. They usually get a lot of their points by attacking aggressively off the dribble and pounding it inside, as well as giving a great effort on the glass to get second chance points. Saturday they weren't the tougher team, and they didn't have an aggressive mindset at all.

Another Slow Start on the Road: The Musketeers' starts have become one of the biggest talking points from game-to-game simply because the way this team begins the game seems to change so drastically. Saturday morning they started the same way they did the last time they played Georgetown, and the same way they've started most of their Big East road games. The team approaches each game as it's own game and tries not too place more importance on one over the other, but it still appeared as if the pressure of seizing one of their last opportunities to pick up a quality road win got to the Musketeers. In the past, Chris Mack has used the metaphor "dipping their toes in the water" to describe the way his team has a tendency to start the game with a lack of effort and aggression. This style of play, if you can call it that, often results in the players looking too casual out on the court. A lot of times this is the exact image that coincides with Xavier's turnover and perimeter defensive issues. On Saturday, there were some aspects of the Musketeers' game plan that didn't work out for them, as will be outlined in more detail below, but the number one problem was that they played like it was a game they couldn't lose. They reacted to what Georgetown dictated on the court, and played panicked when they struggled early. The pace was slow, just the way the Hoyas like it, and Xavier's lack of energy on defense didn't suggest that they wanted anything to do with changing it. Georgetown only turned the ball over three times all game, and X's lack of ball pressure allowed the Hoyas to do whatever they wanted. Coming into Saturday, they had lost back-to-back games by 20-plus points and were told their season was over with a tough four-game slate ahead. The Hoyas played like a team with pride that didn't like what they were hearing. They played desperate. Xavier had just as much to play for when you look at what a win would have meant to their tournament resume and what the Muskies will now have to do to ensure a trip to the dance, but they didn't play that way.

Issues on Both Sides of the Ball: Xavier's struggles didn't discriminate to one end of the court on Saturday. Often in games that the Musketeers have lost, they've either scored enough points but couldn't stop the other team from scoring (Iowa, USC, Creighton, and Providence), or they couldn't score themselves (Tennessee and Seton Hall). On Saturday they couldn't get it right at either end. A lot of the issues were related to the previously mentioned lack of effort and readiness, but there were also some very specific things that went wrong at the Verizon Center. Defensively, Xavier tried to play off of Lubick and others to camp a big man in the lane as other teams have done effectively against the Hoyas, but it completely backfired against the Musketeers. Their usual effective defense against penetration, became a porous defense filled with driving lanes for Georgetown's guards and wings to exploit. Markel Starks in particular had a huge first half and caused a lot of trouble with his penetration. Dee Davis did a pretty good job against D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, but a lack of effort and execution with the new game plan put plenty of other Hoyas in position to score on easy shots. Jabril Trawick, who didn't play in the last game between these teams, played a big role in building Georgetown's early lead. He nailed a pair of threes in the first half and finished with 13 points and three assists. Aaron Bowen took advantage of the freedom allowed by the Musketeers' strategy, and hit a big three late in the shot clock, hit a pull-up jumper after crossing up a defender and threw down a nasty oop in transition after a turnover by Xavier. In his postgame comments, Mack said he was "kicking himself" for changing to the modified defensive game plan. When the Musketeers struggled with it early, they also switched to a zone defense, but it allowed a few open threes, including Smith-Rivera's only field goal. The coaching staff adjusted throughout the game after the original plan backfired, but the hole was already dug too deep. In the second half, after the Hoyas withstood Xavier's initial 7-3 semi-run, and responded with their own punch. Smith-Rivera's three made it 52-35, and from that point the Musketeers' effort just flat-out wasn't there on the defensive end at all. Offensively, the biggest issue was one we've seen this team deal with several times already this season, including in last Saturday's loss to Marquette… turnovers. They didn't turn it over a ridiculous amount (11), but those turnovers were costly as they led to 20 points for Georgetown. The Hoyas used a 3/4 court press that really gave the Musketeers some issues. They took two 10-second violations in the first half, and the decision-making against the press was horrible. Against DePaul (clearly an inferior team but still), the ball movement Xavier displayed on offense was phenomenal; Saturday they had just eight assists as a team. Christon was perfect from the field, but somehow only attempted five shots. Georgetown stayed with its press on defense, but mixed it up in the halfcourt with the same zone Xavier saw last time at the Cintas Center as well as some man-to-man. The Musketeers never really figured out a way to crack it as they couldn't get into any sort of rhythm or flow, in large part because of all of the turnovers and the press.

Takeaway: This is a tough loss for X. It was going to be a tough game to win on the road, but it was also easier than what they'll now have to do, which is beat St. John's on the road, or beat Creghton or Villanova at home, in addition to taking down Seton Hall on the road in a must-win match-up. The bigger concern going forward is whether this team can get it done away from the Cintas Center. Every team struggles on the road, but not every team fails to show up as this team has, at least to start, in many of their road games.


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