It'd be unfair and incorrect to pin Xavier's loss Saturday at DePaul on any one or two players. It'd also be reasonable to look at the makeup of the Musketeer's roster and expect more out of seniors Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook.
Wednesday night Xavier bounced back with a 69-58 win over Seton Hall, and both their leaders showed up with better performances.
Davis led Xavier with 14 points (6-11 FG), six assists, two steals, two turnovers and contributed with great defense on Jaren Sina and, at times, Seton Hall's top player Sterling Gibbs.
“(Dee) was locked in,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “He needs to be locked in like that every single night. I felt like I couldn’t take him out of the game. I thought his defense… he was all over Sina. (Seton Hall’s) two-headed monster in the backcourt became more of a one-headed monster. Sina wasn’t getting any open looks.”
Davis commanded the Musketeers' offense with confidence and a keen mind. Like with his other best performances this season, he chose his spots perfectly when deciding when to attack. More importantly, he dictated Xavier's offensive flow while Seton Hall was mixing up its defenses.
"I thought the difference between our team this year and last year against Seton Hall, No. 1 we could stretch the floor better with the guys that we have," Mack said. "But we moved the ball. We didn't hold it. We didn't try to analyze what defense they were in. Kevin's down at the other end changing defenses every time the ball comes down our way. We just tried to move the ball, duck in our bigs, move the ball, duck in our bigs. And because of that we got some good looks."
“Dee was that quarterback when they were switching defenses that got us into our stuff.”
Stainbrook added just eight points on four shots, but he led the team with nine rebounds and was much more physical inside than he has been in recent games, contributing to Seton Hall's senior big man Brandon Mobley fouling out with 6:01 left and Xavier’s 40-28 scoring advantage in the paint.
Mack called Stainbrook out in Tuesday afternoon's press conference before the game, and has mentioned his desire for his big man to be more adamant about catching the ball deeper in the post for a few weeks.
"He catches (the ball) way too far away from the basket,” Mack said on Tuesday. "Big post players, guys that are loads, they don’t just ask for double-teams. The answer is to get the ball closer to the basket. Matt too often settles for post position 14 or 15 feet away.”
Wednesday night Mack was happy with Stainbrook's approach, even if it didn't result in a huge offensive night for the big man.
“Terrific,” Mack said of Stainbrook’s performance. “His line may not look it but Matt finally took a step forward with ducking in and sealing really close to the basket. He was working for position. Now, hindsight's 20-20. I've talked to Matt a lot to the last two days about ducking in and wanting position and jockeying for it and catching the ball closer to the basket. But I should have alerted the guards that he was going to do that. Because they're so used to Matt's big paw sticking out at 12 feet and they just throw to that target up in the air and he draws a double-team and he makes a good pass. But as I told Matt, we need more production out of you around the basket. You've got to put fouls on people. We have to get you to score. And those double-teams have to really, really come at a price. If you catch it deeper, it puts a lot of pressure if you’re going to double that close to the rim. We’ll put it all together. Matt worked really hard for that position tonight. We didn’t reward him as much as we need to.”
Just like in Saturday's loss, it wasn't just two players responsible for Xavier's win Wednesday night. But the Musketeers' senior leaders gave the team more of what it needed, and as a result XU was tough to beat. Now, the next step is performing that way on the road Saturday at Butler.