Breakdown: Nova Shoots Lights Out Against X

Rick takes a look at what went well and what went wrong for the Musketeers in their 88-75 loss to Villanova Wednesday night.

Xavier never really had a chance Wednesday night at the Pavilion.

Villanova made five of its first six shots against the Musketeers, four of them 3-pointers, as the Wildcats took a 14-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game and went on to cruise to an 88-75 victory.

Chris Mack allowed his players to decide the starting lineup this week in practice by "wiping the slate clean" and awarding the starting spots to the guys that competed the hardest leading up to the game. The chosen five on Wednesday night were Dee Davis, Larry Austin Jr, J.P. Macura, Trevon Bluiett and Matt Stainbrook. Mack says he will employ the same method in deciding his starting lineup for Saturday's game at the Cintas Center against Marquette.

As soon as Xavier's lineup was turned into the official scorer, the conversation between Jay Wright and his team probably went something like this:

"They're starting a pair of freshman tonight, guys. Listen to me, WHOEVER has No. 55 on you, look to be aggressive and attack as soon as you touch the ball."

It just so happened that Macura was matched up on Villanova's leading scorer Darrun Hilliard. The senior guard took his coach's hypothetical advice that may or may not have been given (but probably was) on the first two possessions of the game.

Hilliard three #1

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Hilliard layup on JP

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While on the subject of Macura's defense, it truly is one of the toughest predicaments for the coaching staff. The freshman gives great effort, plays with toughness, is fearless and talented on the offensive end, but he is constantly getting beat on defense. Sometimes he's beat off the dribble guarding the ball, other times he loses his man while trying to be in proper help position, and others he gets caught gambling and going outside of the system instead of just being solid.

Ennis misses three after Macura loses him.

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Dylan Ennis makes a jumper after Macura gambles.

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The story of this game was perimeter defense. Xavier ranks 257th in the country in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 36 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Villanova came into Wednesday's game on the heels of a 23-for-52 (44.2%) shooting effort from 3-point range in two wins last week. That didn't make for a good mixture. The Wildcats were 15-of-34 (44.1%) from beyond the arc, marking a season-high for both makes and attempts.

Since perimeter shooting was the overwhelming difference in the game, here's a look at every 3-point shot the Wildcats hit (except for one because FS1 cut to the play as soon as the ball was coming out of Ennis' hands) and what went wrong for the Musketeers defensively.

This first glance is a missed shot by Villanova, but it's a good example of what some people have been complaining about with the guards getting caught too far in help position and then being unable to closeout on shooters. Larry Austin was at the nail (middle of the court) in help position when the ball was on the opposite wing from his man (Arcidiacono). When the ball gets thrown to Ochefu on the right block, he stays in and tries to provide Stainbrook help. That's not his job and he shouldn't be there anymore. He should have already been moving back out to his man on the perimeter when the ball was thrown in. Instead, the savvy vet Jayvaughn Pinkston sees that he's sucked too far in and screens him. Ochefu finds Arcidiacono for a wide open three, but Xavier gets lucky this time.

Arch misses wide open look

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This is Villanova's second three of the game. A possession or two later, Austin once again gets out of position while trying to help. It's important to be in your gaps and build walls as a help defender in the pack line, but Austin wanders too far away from his man (Arcidiacono), a known shooter on the scouting report. He gets a late hand up, but if nothing else wondering so far away gives his man too much confidence to set his feet and release a quick shot as soon as the pass comes.

Arch three #2

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The very next possession Austin learns from his early mistakes. The huge key is that he doesn't freeze when the ballhandler (Ennis) starts penetrating. He reads it and starts moving toward his man immediately. By the time Ennis starts looking to throw a pass to Arcidiacono, Austin is moving full speed towards his man already and gets rewarded with the steal. Of course, he makes a freshman mistake by not giving it up at the other end, but one lesson learned is a pretty good start.

Austin learns from his mistake and gets a steal.

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This next one may look like it's Dee Davis' fault for getting sucked too far in on help defense because he's late to close out, but a closer look reveals that Stainbrook and Austin getting split on the initial ball screen defense forced Davis to slide over and stop Arcidiacono's straight-line path to the rim.

Ennis three #3

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Here's one reason Remy Abell's minutes might have been limited. Xavier works on transition defense every day, and the most important part of transition defense is communicating and using common sense when stopping the ball. As the Musketeers initially come down the court, Abell is the first one down there and to the outside already in position to pick up Hart, while Farr is more toward the middle of the court but in good enough position that he'll be able to stop the ball. They also have some reinforcements with Bluiett in the middle and Dee Davis on the other side. Instead of communicating and sticking with the guys they're in position to guard, Abell jumps up at the last second and decides to defend the ball, leaving Farr hung out to dry as he tries to make a way too late running closeout attempt.

Hart three #4

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I'm not exactly sure what Stainbrook read on this play and how he ended up jumping on the wrong side unless Ochefu really just caught him off guard with that swivel move where he changed to screen from the middle to the outside. With no ball screen help for Dee Davis, Macura jumps up to cut off Phil Booth's lane to the basket but immediately Booth bounces a pass to Ennis in the corner. Ennis gives Macura a quick jab step as he's trying to recover and, worried about getting beat off the bounce, Macura backs off him.

Ennis three #5

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On this one Stainbrook just gets matched up on a guard (Booth) as the Musketeers are retreating in transition and the Wildcats are playing with a small lineup on the floor and he doesn't get out far enough on him.

Booth three #6

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This is bad transition defense by Xavier on this one. The Musketeers aren't exactly busting it to get back, and then James Farr is worried about picking his own man up in the lane (no one has a man in transition defense) and they end up leaving Ennis wide open again.

Ennis three #7

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This isn't a three, but here the Musketeers switched to their 2-3 zone in the second half. Their communication in the zone is still clearly a work in progress. On this play, Davis goes down to help Bluiett in the corner so Bluiett replaces him up top, but Davis thinks Bluiett is still there and allows Arcidiacono to take a few dribbles along the baseline for a short, wide-open pull-up jumper.

Xavier gets confused in its 2-3 zone.

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Austin on Arcidiacono again. Not terrible position, but he doesn't press up on him enough once he catches the ball. He gets a hand up, but he should have taken away that space initially and made it a tougher contest. But part of what made this tough, especially on a guy like Austin, is that some of these threes are coming from a good step or two behind the line.

Arch three #9

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Similar situation here for Macura. Not terrible position, but just not quite close enough on Ennis and he was feeling it.

Dylan Ennis three #10

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Myles Davis inexplicably doubles the post here and promptly gives up another three to Ennis. He should crowd the post some by giving a few jab steps and swiping at the ball should Ochefu try to dribble it, but he definitely shouldn't be doubling here.

Ennis three #11

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If you watch after the ball screen here, Davis is in a tough spot because he's the only defender left on the left side of the floor so he has to hold Ochefu until Stainbrook gets back and also recover to his own man (Arcidiacono). After the ball is thrown in the post to Ochefu and Farr took the ball, Davis should have sprinted back out to his man immediately but instead he turns around and just continues to crowd/watch Ochefu as he kicks it out to Arcidacono for a three.

Arch three #12

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More not very good off the ball defense by Xavier (Dee Davis this time). And more good shooting by Villanova. Davis should have been moving as the ball was moving around the perimeter. When the ball is in the opposite corner, it's appropriate for him to have a foot in the lane as a help side defender. When the ball gets swung back to the top he should have jumped with it and moved closer to his man. When it was just one pass away he should have jumped again and been even closer to his man.

Hart three #14

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Reynolds blocks a shot… and that leads to, you guessed it, another three for Villanova.

Arch three #13

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Davis steps up

Xavier wasn't great on offense in the first half, but a lot of that had to do with missed shots and turnovers more than anything. There were actually some stretches where they ran really good offense and moved the ball well.

One of the biggest positives on the offensive end was the play of Dee Davis. He hasn't exactly stepped up and led the team through its struggles on the road, but Wednesday night I thought he did that at Villanova. Now, it wasn't enough to change the outcome of the game because the Musketeers' perimeter defense wasn't nearly good enough to allow that to be a possibility. But he did run the offense with confidence and started making plays to pull the team off the mat in the first half after a brutal start.

He finished with 9 points on 4-of-12 shooting but also dished out nine assists with only one turnover. He didn't hit shots from the outside, but he still found a way to create offense for his team. A few of the shots he missed (as you'll see) ended up being just as good as assists because of the way he aggressively attacked the rim.

It started with this and-one floater. This came at the end of a great possession for both teams that saw the Musketeers rotate the ball and change sides of the court at least three times before Jalen Reynolds made that kick out pass to Davis.

Dee Davis floater

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Davis was dropping dimes all night, finishing with nine assists. This was was his most impressive dish of the night.

Dee Davis assist to Jalen Reynolds for the dunk.

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I like this take by Davis in transition. He goes aggressively and ends up taking out about three defenders on the play, while still managing to get it up off the glass where Bluiett can clean up the miss.

Trevon Bluiett follows Dee Davis' miss in transition.

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Davis' patience, pace and feel on this pick-and-roll with Reynolds is perfect.

Dee Davis runs pick and roll with Jalen Reynolds.

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Some more pace and craftiness from the senior point guard.

Dee Davis floater off the high ball screen.

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Then Dee hit the stepback three after struggling for most of the game with his outside shot.

Dee Davis hits the stepback three.

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This is a nice action that X runs a lot. Davis throws to Stainbrook at the high post and then rubs his man off before making the nice finish.

Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook run a little two man game for a layup.

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Again, even though he didn't finish the shot, this was a nasty move by Davis and he created a play for Reynolds to clean up.

Reynolds dunks in Dee Davis' miss after a nasty spin move.

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Highlights and other plays

There were actually a lot of positive takeaways from the way Xavier played, especially in the second half. Here's a look at some of what went well for the Musketeers.

This is an underneath out of bounds play we've looked at in previous breakdowns. Villanova has this well scouted and they have tough enough big men to defend it well too, but Bluiett does a great job of just creating. He rejects the ball screen, drives aggressively and then shows some chemistry with his fellow freshman splash brother by finding him on the wing for a three. This is a good sign for the Musketeers' future.

Trevon Bluiett assists JP Macura for three.

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Another underneath out of bounds play we've looked at before. Mack loves to use this one to free shooters. My favorite part about it is how it has multiple options. Here's a look at the Musketeers running it to free Macura for a three in the first half.

Macura three off underneath out of bounds play.

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And here's the same play in the second half.

Macura hits the three on the underneath out of bounds play.

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And here's basically the same play with a little twist. Keep an eye on Macura and Myles Davis this time. Davis just misses the three.

Switched up the out of bounds play just a bit. Myles just misses the three.

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This was an awesome post move from Stainbrook in the first half.

Matt Stainbrook makes Daniel Ochefu dance in the post.

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Villanova feels like it can play interchangeably on defense and will constantly switch players when falling back in transition or defending against screens. Xavier for the most part did a pretty good job of taking advantage of these opportunities and getting the ball into the post.

Here Reynolds gets Ennis on him and Bluiett gets him the ball and allows him to go to work.

Jalen Reynolds follows his own miss against Dylan Ennis.

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Xavier had some costly turnovers in the first half. This is a similar situation to the one above with Arcidiacono matched up on Stainbrook. Instead of rotating the ball around the perimeter and letting someone throw an entry pass to the big man, Macura tries to drive the lane and loses it. Some of this may be on Stainbrook for not demanding the ball and sealing Arcidiacono underneath the rim..

Macura loses it with Stainbrook matched up on Arch.

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This was something that must have been in the scout because Xavier was looking for the lob pass over Villanova's fronting defense in the post the whole game. This time it occurred more in the high post area - another nice pass by Davis and a nice job by Stainbrook of giving him a target.

Matt Stainbrook scores off the assist from Dee Davis.

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Mentioned that Xavier was running pretty good offense throughout the game, but the biggest difference for the Musketeers from the first half to the second half was the way they made shots. Here's an example. I like this offensive possession - great ball movement and a good look for the team's best scorer. The shot just doesn't go.

Good possession. No points.

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In the second half, a very similar play… and this time they score on the floater by Myles Davis.

Good possession ends in Myles Davis bank floater.

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This was an impressive spin move and finish by Bluiett.

Trevon Bluiett with the spin move and-one.

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This goes back to the way X got the ball into the post. Here, Bluiett tosses it into Stainbrook who was very physical with Pinkston on him.

Matt Stainbrook scores off the post feed from Trevon Bluiett.

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Stainbrook again seals off a defender fronting him and gets an easy two off a lob pass from Dee Davis.

Stainbrook seals and scores off the assist from Dee Davis.

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Good seal by Reynolds. Great entry by Davis.

Reynolds seals in the paint and hits the jump hook.

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With all the ball screen stuff Xavier runs, I love this action. Reynolds comes up like he's going to set the screen and then slips it. Macura hits him with the pass and then Kris Jenkins gets out of the way to avoid being included in a future Big East promotional poster.

Jalen Reynolds slips a screen for a dunk.

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Musketeer Report Top Stories

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Hilliard layup on JP

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While on the subject of Macura's defense, it truly is one of the toughest predicaments for the coaching staff. The freshman gives great effort, plays with toughness, is fearless and talented on the offensive end, but he is constantly getting beat on defense. Sometimes he's beat off the dribble guarding the ball, other times he loses his man while trying to be in proper help position, and others he gets caught gambling and going outside of the system instead of just being solid.

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Ennis misses three after Macura loses him.

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Dylan Ennis makes a jumper after Macura gambles.

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The story of this game was perimeter defense. Xavier ranks 257th in the country in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 36 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Villanova came into Wednesday's game on the heels of a 23-for-52 (44.2%) shooting effort from 3-point range in two wins last week. That didn't make for a good mixture. The Wildcats were 15-of-34 (44.1%) from beyond the arc, marking a season-high for both makes and attempts.

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Since perimeter shooting was the overwhelming difference in the game, here's a look at every 3-point shot the Wildcats hit (except for one because FS1 cut to the play as soon as the ball was coming out of Ennis' hands) and what went wrong for the Musketeers defensively.

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This first glance is a missed shot by Villanova, but it's a good example of what some people have been complaining about with the guards getting caught too far in help position and then being unable to closeout on shooters. Larry Austin was at the nail (middle of the court) in help position when the ball was on the opposite wing from his man (Arcidiacono). When the ball gets thrown to Ochefu on the right block, he stays in and tries to provide Stainbrook help. That's not his job and he shouldn't be there anymore. He should have already been moving back out to his man on the perimeter when the ball was thrown in. Instead, the savvy vet Jayvaughn Pinkston sees that he's sucked too far in and screens him. Ochefu finds Arcidiacono for a wide open three, but Xavier gets lucky this time.

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Arch misses wide open look

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This is Villanova's second three of the game. A possession or two later, Austin once again gets out of position while trying to help. It's important to be in your gaps and build walls as a help defender in the pack line, but Austin wanders too far away from his man (Arcidiacono), a known shooter on the scouting report. He gets a late hand up, but if nothing else wondering so far away gives his man too much confidence to set his feet and release a quick shot as soon as the pass comes.

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Arch three #2

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The very next possession Austin learns from his early mistakes. The huge key is that he doesn't freeze when the ballhandler (Ennis) starts penetrating. He reads it and starts moving toward his man immediately. By the time Ennis starts looking to throw a pass to Arcidiacono, Austin is moving full speed towards his man already and gets rewarded with the steal. Of course, he makes a freshman mistake by not giving it up at the other end, but one lesson learned is a pretty good start.

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Austin learns from his mistake and gets a steal.

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This next one may look like it's Dee Davis' fault for getting sucked too far in on help defense because he's late to close out, but a closer look reveals that Stainbrook and Austin getting split on the initial ball screen defense forced Davis to slide over and stop Arcidiacono's straight-line path to the rim.

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Ennis three #3

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Here's one reason Remy Abell's minutes might have been limited. Xavier works on transition defense every day, and the most important part of transition defense is communicating and using common sense when stopping the ball. As the Musketeers initially come down the court, Abell is the first one down there and to the outside already in position to pick up Hart, while Farr is more toward the middle of the court but in good enough position that he'll be able to stop the ball. They also have some reinforcements with Bluiett in the middle and Dee Davis on the other side. Instead of communicating and sticking with the guys they're in position to guard, Abell jumps up at the last second and decides to defend the ball, leaving Farr hung out to dry as he tries to make a way too late running closeout attempt.

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Hart three #4

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I'm not exactly sure what Stainbrook read on this play and how he ended up jumping on the wrong side unless Ochefu really just caught him off guard with that swivel move where he changed to screen from the middle to the outside. With no ball screen help for Dee Davis, Macura jumps up to cut off Phil Booth's lane to the basket but immediately Booth bounces a pass to Ennis in the corner. Ennis gives Macura a quick jab step as he's trying to recover and, worried about getting beat off the bounce, Macura backs off him.

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Ennis three #5

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On this one Stainbrook just gets matched up on a guard (Booth) as the Musketeers are retreating in transition and the Wildcats are playing with a small lineup on the floor and he doesn't get out far enough on him.

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Booth three #6

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This is bad transition defense by Xavier on this one. The Musketeers aren't exactly busting it to get back, and then James Farr is worried about picking his own man up in the lane (no one has a man in transition defense) and they end up leaving Ennis wide open again.

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Ennis three #7

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This isn't a three, but here the Musketeers switched to their 2-3 zone in the second half. Their communication in the zone is still clearly a work in progress. On this play, Davis goes down to help Bluiett in the corner so Bluiett replaces him up top, but Davis thinks Bluiett is still there and allows Arcidiacono to take a few dribbles along the baseline for a short, wide-open pull-up jumper.

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Xavier gets confused in its 2-3 zone.

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Austin on Arcidiacono again. Not terrible position, but he doesn't press up on him enough once he catches the ball. He gets a hand up, but he should have taken away that space initially and made it a tougher contest. But part of what made this tough, especially on a guy like Austin, is that some of these threes are coming from a good step or two behind the line.

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Arch three #9

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Similar situation here for Macura. Not terrible position, but just not quite close enough on Ennis and he was feeling it.

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Dylan Ennis three #10

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Myles Davis inexplicably doubles the post here and promptly gives up another three to Ennis. He should crowd the post some by giving a few jab steps and swiping at the ball should Ochefu try to dribble it, but he definitely shouldn't be doubling here.

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Ennis three #11

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If you watch after the ball screen here, Davis is in a tough spot because he's the only defender left on the left side of the floor so he has to hold Ochefu until Stainbrook gets back and also recover to his own man (Arcidiacono). After the ball is thrown in the post to Ochefu and Farr took the ball, Davis should have sprinted back out to his man immediately but instead he turns around and just continues to crowd/watch Ochefu as he kicks it out to Arcidacono for a three.

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Arch three #12

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More not very good off the ball defense by Xavier (Dee Davis this time). And more good shooting by Villanova. Davis should have been moving as the ball was moving around the perimeter. When the ball is in the opposite corner, it's appropriate for him to have a foot in the lane as a help side defender. When the ball gets swung back to the top he should have jumped with it and moved closer to his man. When it was just one pass away he should have jumped again and been even closer to his man.

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Hart three #14

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Reynolds blocks a shot… and that leads to, you guessed it, another three for Villanova.

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Arch three #13

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Davis steps up

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Xavier wasn't great on offense in the first half, but a lot of that had to do with missed shots and turnovers more than anything. There were actually some stretches where they ran really good offense and moved the ball well.

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One of the biggest positives on the offensive end was the play of Dee Davis. He hasn't exactly stepped up and led the team through its struggles on the road, but Wednesday night I thought he did that at Villanova. Now, it wasn't enough to change the outcome of the game because the Musketeers' perimeter defense wasn't nearly good enough to allow that to be a possibility. But he did run the offense with confidence and started making plays to pull the team off the mat in the first half after a brutal start.

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He finished with 9 points on 4-of-12 shooting but also dished out nine assists with only one turnover. He didn't hit shots from the outside, but he still found a way to create offense for his team. A few of the shots he missed (as you'll see) ended up being just as good as assists because of the way he aggressively attacked the rim.

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It started with this and-one floater. This came at the end of a great possession for both teams that saw the Musketeers rotate the ball and change sides of the court at least three times before Jalen Reynolds made that kick out pass to Davis.

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Dee Davis floater

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Davis was dropping dimes all night, finishing with nine assists. This was was his most impressive dish of the night.

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Dee Davis assist to Jalen Reynolds for the dunk.

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I like this take by Davis in transition. He goes aggressively and ends up taking out about three defenders on the play, while still managing to get it up off the glass where Bluiett can clean up the miss.

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Trevon Bluiett follows Dee Davis' miss in transition.

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Davis' patience, pace and feel on this pick-and-roll with Reynolds is perfect.

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Dee Davis runs pick and roll with Jalen Reynolds.

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Some more pace and craftiness from the senior point guard.

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Dee Davis floater off the high ball screen.

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Then Dee hit the stepback three after struggling for most of the game with his outside shot.

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Dee Davis hits the stepback three.

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This is a nice action that X runs a lot. Davis throws to Stainbrook at the high post and then rubs his man off before making the nice finish.

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Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook run a little two man game for a layup.

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Again, even though he didn't finish the shot, this was a nasty move by Davis and he created a play for Reynolds to clean up.

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Reynolds dunks in Dee Davis' miss after a nasty spin move.

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Highlights and other plays

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There were actually a lot of positive takeaways from the way Xavier played, especially in the second half. Here's a look at some of what went well for the Musketeers.

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This is an underneath out of bounds play we've looked at in previous breakdowns. Villanova has this well scouted and they have tough enough big men to defend it well too, but Bluiett does a great job of just creating. He rejects the ball screen, drives aggressively and then shows some chemistry with his fellow freshman splash brother by finding him on the wing for a three. This is a good sign for the Musketeers' future.

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Trevon Bluiett assists JP Macura for three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Another underneath out of bounds play we've looked at before. Mack loves to use this one to free shooters. My favorite part about it is how it has multiple options. Here's a look at the Musketeers running it to free Macura for a three in the first half.

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Macura three off underneath out of bounds play.

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And here's the same play in the second half.

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Macura hits the three on the underneath out of bounds play.

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And here's basically the same play with a little twist. Keep an eye on Macura and Myles Davis this time. Davis just misses the three.

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Switched up the out of bounds play just a bit. Myles just misses the three.

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This was an awesome post move from Stainbrook in the first half.

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Matt Stainbrook makes Daniel Ochefu dance in the post.

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Villanova feels like it can play interchangeably on defense and will constantly switch players when falling back in transition or defending against screens. Xavier for the most part did a pretty good job of taking advantage of these opportunities and getting the ball into the post.

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Here Reynolds gets Ennis on him and Bluiett gets him the ball and allows him to go to work.

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Jalen Reynolds follows his own miss against Dylan Ennis.

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Xavier had some costly turnovers in the first half. This is a similar situation to the one above with Arcidiacono matched up on Stainbrook. Instead of rotating the ball around the perimeter and letting someone throw an entry pass to the big man, Macura tries to drive the lane and loses it. Some of this may be on Stainbrook for not demanding the ball and sealing Arcidiacono underneath the rim..

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Macura loses it with Stainbrook matched up on Arch.

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This was something that must have been in the scout because Xavier was looking for the lob pass over Villanova's fronting defense in the post the whole game. This time it occurred more in the high post area - another nice pass by Davis and a nice job by Stainbrook of giving him a target.

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Matt Stainbrook scores off the assist from Dee Davis.

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Mentioned that Xavier was running pretty good offense throughout the game, but the biggest difference for the Musketeers from the first half to the second half was the way they made shots. Here's an example. I like this offensive possession - great ball movement and a good look for the team's best scorer. The shot just doesn't go.

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Good possession. No points.

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In the second half, a very similar play… and this time they score on the floater by Myles Davis.

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Good possession ends in Myles Davis bank floater.

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This was an impressive spin move and finish by Bluiett.

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Trevon Bluiett with the spin move and-one.

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This goes back to the way X got the ball into the post. Here, Bluiett tosses it into Stainbrook who was very physical with Pinkston on him.

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Matt Stainbrook scores off the post feed from Trevon Bluiett.

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Stainbrook again seals off a defender fronting him and gets an easy two off a lob pass from Dee Davis.

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Stainbrook seals and scores off the assist from Dee Davis.

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Good seal by Reynolds. Great entry by Davis.

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Reynolds seals in the paint and hits the jump hook.

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With all the ball screen stuff Xavier runs, I love this action. Reynolds comes up like he's going to set the screen and then slips it. Macura hits him with the pass and then Kris Jenkins gets out of the way to avoid being included in a future Big East promotional poster.

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Jalen Reynolds slips a screen for a dunk.

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Xavier never really had a chance Wednesday night at the Pavilion.

Villanova made five of its first six shots against the Musketeers, four of them 3-pointers, as the Wildcats took a 14-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game and went on to cruise to an 88-75 victory.

Chris Mack allowed his players to decide the starting lineup this week in practice by \"wiping the slate clean\" and awarding the starting spots to the guys that competed the hardest leading up to the game. The chosen five on Wednesday night were Dee Davis, Larry Austin Jr, J.P. Macura, Trevon Bluiett and Matt Stainbrook. Mack says he will employ the same method in deciding his starting lineup for Saturday's game at the Cintas Center against Marquette.

As soon as Xavier's lineup was turned into the official scorer, the conversation between Jay Wright and his team probably went something like this:

\"They're starting a pair of freshman tonight, guys. Listen to me, WHOEVER has No. 55 on you, look to be aggressive and attack as soon as you touch the ball.\"

It just so happened that Macura was matched up on Villanova's leading scorer Darrun Hilliard. The senior guard took his coach's hypothetical advice that may or may not have been given (but probably was) on the first two possessions of the game.

While on the subject of Macura's defense, it truly is one of the toughest predicaments for the coaching staff. The freshman gives great effort, plays with toughness, is fearless and talented on the offensive end, but he is constantly getting beat on defense. Sometimes he's beat off the dribble guarding the ball, other times he loses his man while trying to be in proper help position, and others he gets caught gambling and going outside of the system instead of just being solid.

The story of this game was perimeter defense. Xavier ranks 257th in the country in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 36 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Villanova came into Wednesday's game on the heels of a 23-for-52 (44.2%) shooting effort from 3-point range in two wins last week. That didn't make for a good mixture. The Wildcats were 15-of-34 (44.1%) from beyond the arc, marking a season-high for both makes and attempts.

Since perimeter shooting was the overwhelming difference in the game, here's a look at every 3-point shot the Wildcats hit (except for one because FS1 cut to the play as soon as the ball was coming out of Ennis' hands) and what went wrong for the Musketeers defensively.

This first glance is a missed shot by Villanova, but it's a good example of what some people have been complaining about with the guards getting caught too far in help position and then being unable to closeout on shooters. Larry Austin was at the nail (middle of the court) in help position when the ball was on the opposite wing from his man (Arcidiacono). When the ball gets thrown to Ochefu on the right block, he stays in and tries to provide Stainbrook help. That's not his job and he shouldn't be there anymore. He should have already been moving back out to his man on the perimeter when the ball was thrown in. Instead, the savvy vet Jayvaughn Pinkston sees that he's sucked too far in and screens him. Ochefu finds Arcidiacono for a wide open three, but Xavier gets lucky this time.

This is Villanova's second three of the game. A possession or two later, Austin once again gets out of position while trying to help. It's important to be in your gaps and build walls as a help defender in the pack line, but Austin wanders too far away from his man (Arcidiacono), a known shooter on the scouting report. He gets a late hand up, but if nothing else wondering so far away gives his man too much confidence to set his feet and release a quick shot as soon as the pass comes.

The very next possession Austin learns from his early mistakes. The huge key is that he doesn't freeze when the ballhandler (Ennis) starts penetrating. He reads it and starts moving toward his man immediately. By the time Ennis starts looking to throw a pass to Arcidiacono, Austin is moving full speed towards his man already and gets rewarded with the steal. Of course, he makes a freshman mistake by not giving it up at the other end, but one lesson learned is a pretty good start.

This next one may look like it's Dee Davis' fault for getting sucked too far in on help defense because he's late to close out, but a closer look reveals that Stainbrook and Austin getting split on the initial ball screen defense forced Davis to slide over and stop Arcidiacono's straight-line path to the rim.

Here's one reason Remy Abell's minutes might have been limited. Xavier works on transition defense every day, and the most important part of transition defense is communicating and using common sense when stopping the ball. As the Musketeers initially come down the court, Abell is the first one down there and to the outside already in position to pick up Hart, while Farr is more toward the middle of the court but in good enough position that he'll be able to stop the ball. They also have some reinforcements with Bluiett in the middle and Dee Davis on the other side. Instead of communicating and sticking with the guys they're in position to guard, Abell jumps up at the last second and decides to defend the ball, leaving Farr hung out to dry as he tries to make a way too late running closeout attempt.

I'm not exactly sure what Stainbrook read on this play and how he ended up jumping on the wrong side unless Ochefu really just caught him off guard with that swivel move where he changed to screen from the middle to the outside. With no ball screen help for Dee Davis, Macura jumps up to cut off Phil Booth's lane to the basket but immediately Booth bounces a pass to Ennis in the corner. Ennis gives Macura a quick jab step as he's trying to recover and, worried about getting beat off the bounce, Macura backs off him.

On this one Stainbrook just gets matched up on a guard (Booth) as the Musketeers are retreating in transition and the Wildcats are playing with a small lineup on the floor and he doesn't get out far enough on him.

This is bad transition defense by Xavier on this one. The Musketeers aren't exactly busting it to get back, and then James Farr is worried about picking his own man up in the lane (no one has a man in transition defense) and they end up leaving Ennis wide open again.

This isn't a three, but here the Musketeers switched to their 2-3 zone in the second half. Their communication in the zone is still clearly a work in progress. On this play, Davis goes down to help Bluiett in the corner so Bluiett replaces him up top, but Davis thinks Bluiett is still there and allows Arcidiacono to take a few dribbles along the baseline for a short, wide-open pull-up jumper.

Austin on Arcidiacono again. Not terrible position, but he doesn't press up on him enough once he catches the ball. He gets a hand up, but he should have taken away that space initially and made it a tougher contest. But part of what made this tough, especially on a guy like Austin, is that some of these threes are coming from a good step or two behind the line.

Similar situation here for Macura. Not terrible position, but just not quite close enough on Ennis and he was feeling it.

Myles Davis inexplicably doubles the post here and promptly gives up another three to Ennis. He should crowd the post some by giving a few jab steps and swiping at the ball should Ochefu try to dribble it, but he definitely shouldn't be doubling here.

If you watch after the ball screen here, Davis is in a tough spot because he's the only defender left on the left side of the floor so he has to hold Ochefu until Stainbrook gets back and also recover to his own man (Arcidiacono). After the ball is thrown in the post to Ochefu and Farr took the ball, Davis should have sprinted back out to his man immediately but instead he turns around and just continues to crowd/watch Ochefu as he kicks it out to Arcidacono for a three.

More not very good off the ball defense by Xavier (Dee Davis this time). And more good shooting by Villanova. Davis should have been moving as the ball was moving around the perimeter. When the ball is in the opposite corner, it's appropriate for him to have a foot in the lane as a help side defender. When the ball gets swung back to the top he should have jumped with it and moved closer to his man. When it was just one pass away he should have jumped again and been even closer to his man.

Reynolds blocks a shot… and that leads to, you guessed it, another three for Villanova.

Xavier wasn't great on offense in the first half, but a lot of that had to do with missed shots and turnovers more than anything. There were actually some stretches where they ran really good offense and moved the ball well.

One of the biggest positives on the offensive end was the play of Dee Davis. He hasn't exactly stepped up and led the team through its struggles on the road, but Wednesday night I thought he did that at Villanova. Now, it wasn't enough to change the outcome of the game because the Musketeers' perimeter defense wasn't nearly good enough to allow that to be a possibility. But he did run the offense with confidence and started making plays to pull the team off the mat in the first half after a brutal start.

He finished with 9 points on 4-of-12 shooting but also dished out nine assists with only one turnover. He didn't hit shots from the outside, but he still found a way to create offense for his team. A few of the shots he missed (as you'll see) ended up being just as good as assists because of the way he aggressively attacked the rim.

It started with this and-one floater. This came at the end of a great possession for both teams that saw the Musketeers rotate the ball and change sides of the court at least three times before Jalen Reynolds made that kick out pass to Davis.

Davis was dropping dimes all night, finishing with nine assists. This was was his most impressive dish of the night.

I like this take by Davis in transition. He goes aggressively and ends up taking out about three defenders on the play, while still managing to get it up off the glass where Bluiett can clean up the miss.

Davis' patience, pace and feel on this pick-and-roll with Reynolds is perfect.

Some more pace and craftiness from the senior point guard.

Then Dee hit the stepback three after struggling for most of the game with his outside shot.

This is a nice action that X runs a lot. Davis throws to Stainbrook at the high post and then rubs his man off before making the nice finish.

Again, even though he didn't finish the shot, this was a nasty move by Davis and he created a play for Reynolds to clean up.

There were actually a lot of positive takeaways from the way Xavier played, especially in the second half. Here's a look at some of what went well for the Musketeers.

This is an underneath out of bounds play we've looked at in previous breakdowns. Villanova has this well scouted and they have tough enough big men to defend it well too, but Bluiett does a great job of just creating. He rejects the ball screen, drives aggressively and then shows some chemistry with his fellow freshman splash brother by finding him on the wing for a three. This is a good sign for the Musketeers' future.

Another underneath out of bounds play we've looked at before. Mack loves to use this one to free shooters. My favorite part about it is how it has multiple options. Here's a look at the Musketeers running it to free Macura for a three in the first half.

And here's the same play in the second half.

And here's basically the same play with a little twist. Keep an eye on Macura and Myles Davis this time. Davis just misses the three.

This was an awesome post move from Stainbrook in the first half.

Villanova feels like it can play interchangeably on defense and will constantly switch players when falling back in transition or defending against screens. Xavier for the most part did a pretty good job of taking advantage of these opportunities and getting the ball into the post.

Here Reynolds gets Ennis on him and Bluiett gets him the ball and allows him to go to work.

Xavier had some costly turnovers in the first half. This is a similar situation to the one above with Arcidiacono matched up on Stainbrook. Instead of rotating the ball around the perimeter and letting someone throw an entry pass to the big man, Macura tries to drive the lane and loses it. Some of this may be on Stainbrook for not demanding the ball and sealing Arcidiacono underneath the rim..

This was something that must have been in the scout because Xavier was looking for the lob pass over Villanova's fronting defense in the post the whole game. This time it occurred more in the high post area - another nice pass by Davis and a nice job by Stainbrook of giving him a target.

Mentioned that Xavier was running pretty good offense throughout the game, but the biggest difference for the Musketeers from the first half to the second half was the way they made shots. Here's an example. I like this offensive possession - great ball movement and a good look for the team's best scorer. The shot just doesn't go.

In the second half, a very similar play… and this time they score on the floater by Myles Davis.

This was an impressive spin move and finish by Bluiett.

This goes back to the way X got the ball into the post. Here, Bluiett tosses it into Stainbrook who was very physical with Pinkston on him.

Stainbrook again seals off a defender fronting him and gets an easy two off a lob pass from Dee Davis.

Good seal by Reynolds. Great entry by Davis.

With all the ball screen stuff Xavier runs, I love this action. Reynolds comes up like he's going to set the screen and then slips it. Macura hits him with the pass and then Kris Jenkins gets out of the way to avoid being included in a future Big East promotional poster.

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