Breakdown: XU bounces back against Providence

Rick breaks down some video clips from the Musketeers' 78-69 win over Providence.

Xavier bounced back from Wednesday’s brutal loss home loss against Creighton to avenge an earlier conference loss against Providence.

After falling 69-66 in overtime at Providence on January 22, the Musketeers returned the favor at the Cintas Center on Saturday 78-69. Xavier had to overcome a 40-34 halftime deficit, and did so by changing defenses and hitting big shots.

There weren’t as many specific themes that really stuck out to me after re-watching the game that needed to be addressed by themselves, so this breakdown just follows the timeline of the game while making point of the plays that stood out. It also gives a better feel for how some of the runs happened in this back-and-forth game.

Earlier on this play, the Musketeers got Ben Bentil (6-8, 230) switched on Myles Davis. That’s sort of a positive and a negative for this situation, because they’re running the play for Jalen Reynolds. Bringing Bentil puts an extra defender with size in the play that can help and challenge Reynolds’ shot, but it also helps in the sense that Bentil isn’t exactly sure what Davis is doing and looks a little lost. Starting at the top of the key, Davis passes to the wing and then runs through to the baseline, an action that’s usually followed by him running off a screen back out to the perimeter. But this time, he nonchalantly turns and then sets a back screen on Reynolds’ defender (Desrosiers). Reynolds sets it up well by timing his cut with the pass from Dee Davis to Abell in the corner, and then makes a great catch off a great pass from Abell. This is a great play to get the big man going early.

Reynolds scores off a screen.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This is one of the best plays Reynolds made all game in terms of showing his growth and maturity. In reality, he screwed up and lost his man (Henton) for a second. Henton slides to the other block and gets a quick pass before Reynolds can recover to do anything about it. Instead of getting frustrated and fouling Henton, giving him an and-one because he was already so close to the rim and in his shooting motion and giving Reynolds a stupid, meaningless foul that will cost him minutes later, Reynolds just lets Henton have his two points and moves on to the next play.

Reynolds doesn't foul.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

I’m not sure what J.P. Macura is doing here, but he definitely is still a work in process on the defensive end. Xavier always chases cutters around screens, because Bluiett is in position to offer help here if Macura’s man (Jalen Lindsey) curls around the screen and looks to drive. This is a bit of a moving screen on Providence to make it tougher on Macura, but still not very good. (Audio analysis in the background provided by my pops.)

Lindsey three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Again, this shows the difference having a rim protector on the floor at all times makes for a defense. It seems like Xavier’s opponents have been able to finish off a too many drives to the rim like this with weak floating shots in the lane this year.

Farr block.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Xavier worked a ton on its zone offense in preparation for this game, and one of the big keys was hitting passes in this no-man’s land somewhere between the short corner and the block. I thought their ball movement against the zone was pretty good all night. Making a defense move and work like Providence has to do in this play often leads to good things. Good read and pass by Macura, and I’m sure the coaches are happy that the game plan sunk in for the freshman.

Macura assists Bluiett.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Something both Dee and Myles Davis understand is how to advance the ball up the court with the pass. The last clip Xavier broke down the zone by being patient and moving the ball well. This time they just run great transition offense and get a great look for Macura before the defense ever really sets up.

Macura jumper.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Might as well keep the Macura highlights rolling. I love this out of bounds play that Xavier runs pretty frequently, and I really love the way Sean O’Mara executes it. O’Mara’s job is to seal his man off to create a driving lane for Macura on the right side of the court, with everyone else occupying defenders on the left side. O’Mara does this so aggressively he drives Desrosiers across the lane and easily holds off the senior center while creating a nice lane for Macura who gives Mr. Buckets himself a deuce.

Macura jumper.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Macura was on a roll here in the first half. This is a tremendous pass. It’s similar to the one above against Providence’s zone, but this time he freezes the defense by looking off to Stainbrook before firing to Farr.

Macura pass to Farr.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This is bad recognition or communication or something by James Farr in this ball screen situation. Stainbrook and Dee Davis handle the ball screen ok and Bluiett bumps the screener (Chukwu) as he starts to roll. Farr is low and in position to see everything and help against Chukwu, but when his man Bentil sprints out to the 3-point line he follows, leaving the 7-foot-2 Chukwu open for a lob pass. Stainbrook bumped him as he was laying it in for the easy and-one to top off this defensive possession. The biggest problem is, Bentil will an attempt an occasional three (27% on 22 attempts) but he’s not a 3-point shooter. If Farr were guarding Rick Kreklow from Creighton or even Tyler Harris for Providence, it would have been a little bit more understandable.

Paschal Chukwu and one.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Throughout the game against Providence’s zone, instead of planting someone in the high post at the free-throw line to facilitate the offense, Xavier rotated its guards when passing around the perimeter and had the opposite wing flash when the ball was thrown to either side. On this play use good quick ball movement to get the ball in the middle to Dee Davis, and he immediately knows what to do with it with the defense collapsing. This is great zone offense.

Reynolds dunk.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Here’s Providence running a ball screen at Sean O’Mara. O’Mara does a good job hedging. Reynolds tries to give Bentil a bump on the road and Macura is in the right spot to help. Macura eyes the passer, but he doesn’t really know where Bentil is and ends up still giving Kyron Cartwright a passing lane to find Bentil with a nice bounde pass.

Providence ball screen bucket.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Here’s the tough part about the last two defensive plays shown above. Another ball screen at O’Mara, and he and Larry Austin did a nice job of handling it. On the roll, Trevon Bluiett isn’t close enough to get a bump on Bentil but Myles Davis stayed in to help and discouraged the pass until O’Mara could recover. Providence did a great job of quickly rotating the ball around to Davis’ man (Jalen Lindsey) and he buried the three with Davis a step or two late on the closeout. I think these late first half sequences are a lot of what prompted Mack to go to the zone.

Lindsey three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Providence attacks Xavier’s zone the same way the Musketeers attacked their’s, by moving the ball and having the bigs be active on the baseline. Here they get Xavier’s zone moving, and then find Bentil cutting across the baseline and Reynolds ends up fouling him. The issue here is that Xavier isn’t communicating well enough or recognizing what’s going on around them. Bluiett needs to see Bentil cutting and tell Reynolds where he is, and Dee Davis needs to be telling Reynolds to get back down once the ball gets swung from his left wing to the right wing and he’s able to recover to the middle. But again, these are some of the things they’ll have to feel out if they play more zone.

Bentil gets open against the zone.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Here’s Xavier playing its 1-3-1 zone. Providence tries to still ball screen the top of it to let Dunn go to work, but Xavier handles it well. That’s the biggest benefit of the zone for this team in my opinion, it eliminates a lot of the ball screen defense issues they’ve been having this year (which seem like about 90% of the Musketeers’ issues on defense). It’s ironic to me that Stainbrook is the last line of defense that makes this play.

Zone defense against a ball screen leads to Jalen dunk.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Dee Davis had 15 assists in this game. This is one of his better ones. Reynolds was trapped but the Musketeers keep the ball moving and Dee Davis keeps them in attack mode when he sees Providence’s defense on the move. This is also a nice finish by O’Mara.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Also, just for fun… O’Mara should have this on his freshman year highlight reel. One-on-one in transition with Buckets and he gets the stop without fouling. I would have lost that bet.

O'Mara stops Henton in transition.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

I’ll get into this more on a podcast sometime I’m sure, but this was one of my favorite moments of the season.

Jalen Reynolds and Tyler Harris rub each other's head.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This is a great look at how physical and dominant Reynolds was playing in this game. When he sensed Myles Davis was stopped, he ducked in and not only drove Desrosiers back but walked him all the way up the lane, which gave Dee Davis an easy target to pass to. These are the types of plays where you can see Reynolds’ understanding and feel for the game improving.

Reynolds dunk.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

If J.P. Macura could get his turnovers down, he might be the top candidate for point guard next season. I’m only half serious, but some of these passes are impressive, this one topping the list.

Macura finds O'Mara.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

O’Mara wants more minutes. This is grown man basketball from him.

O'Mara powers through Bentil.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Xavier switched it up again and went with some 2-3 zone. On this possession, Providence seems a little confused at first. The Friars lack flow and end up getting a mid-range floater from the worst offensive player on the court.

2-3 zone

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This play more than any recently makes me feel like that tailbone injury must really be holding Stainbrook back. Boxing out and holding guys off when rebounding is one of his strengths, and on this play he lets Bentil toss him aside on his way to getting the stick back.

Stainbrook misses box out.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

I’m not even sure exactly what this defensive look was from Xavier, whether the Musketeers were running a 3-2, 1-2-2 or just disguising one of their other looks that they had already shown. Either way, I love seeing Reynolds at the top of the zone, and this play is exactly why. I’m interested to see this wrinkle more going forward if the matchup calls for it.

Reynolds deflection.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This is more great zone offense from Xavier. The guards rotate the ball quickly and keep the top of the Friars’ zone moving. Bluiett continues to creep in on the play looking for his opening, and then he sees it and Dee Davis finds him for what’s going to be a very high percentage shot for Bluiett.

Bluiett mid-range.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

More great zone offense from the Musketeers. This is fun to watch. All the movement they create early in the play, forces the defense to communicate exceptionally well or there is going to be breakdowns. Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook make the play with beautiful reads and passes. Also notable, this is one of his few field goals that Reynolds didn’t dunk.

Jalen layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This 1-3-1 zone was really effective in the second half of each game against Providence. The matchups don’t always dictate that zone would make sense against other opponents, but if the Musketeers are going to give up threes either way then maybe not giving up the easy layups in the zone that come with their ball screen defensive breakdowns in man-to-man is still worth it. Providence never really seemed to get comfortable with how it should attack this look from Xavier.

Myles Davis deflection in the zone.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Best defensive play of the season? Best defensive play of the season.

Dee steal.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

And obviously this is the dunk of the season. But, let’s not miss some of the under the radar gems in this clip. Starting with Reynolds’ holding his hands out pleading, almost looking frustrated with Dee when he reaches the 3-point line on this break. Also, Dee Davis showing probably the most emotion he’s shown on the court in a Xavier uniform during his career after the dunk. The bench reaction – Strength and Conditioning Coach Matt Jennings, Mario Mercurio and Larry Austin are my favorites. Macura giving Reynolds the most violent shove his arms can muster, and not one single muscle on Reynolds’ body noticing. And finally, I enjoy Reynolds’ rather calm jog back down the court while watching the bench celebrate after he let out his feral scream during the dunk.

Reynolds off the backboard.

A video posted by @rickbroering on


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This is one of the best plays Reynolds made all game in terms of showing his growth and maturity. In reality, he screwed up and lost his man (Henton) for a second. Henton slides to the other block and gets a quick pass before Reynolds can recover to do anything about it. Instead of getting frustrated and fouling Henton, giving him an and-one because he was already so close to the rim and in his shooting motion and giving Reynolds a stupid, meaningless foul that will cost him minutes later, Reynolds just lets Henton have his two points and moves on to the next play.

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Reynolds doesn't foul.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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I’m not sure what J.P. Macura is doing here, but he definitely is still a work in process on the defensive end. Xavier always chases cutters around screens, because Bluiett is in position to offer help here if Macura’s man (Jalen Lindsey) curls around the screen and looks to drive. This is a bit of a moving screen on Providence to make it tougher on Macura, but still not very good. (Audio analysis in the background provided by my pops.)

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Lindsey three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Again, this shows the difference having a rim protector on the floor at all times makes for a defense. It seems like Xavier’s opponents have been able to finish off a too many drives to the rim like this with weak floating shots in the lane this year.

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Farr block.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Xavier worked a ton on its zone offense in preparation for this game, and one of the big keys was hitting passes in this no-man’s land somewhere between the short corner and the block. I thought their ball movement against the zone was pretty good all night. Making a defense move and work like Providence has to do in this play often leads to good things. Good read and pass by Macura, and I’m sure the coaches are happy that the game plan sunk in for the freshman.

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Macura assists Bluiett.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Something both Dee and Myles Davis understand is how to advance the ball up the court with the pass. The last clip Xavier broke down the zone by being patient and moving the ball well. This time they just run great transition offense and get a great look for Macura before the defense ever really sets up.

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Macura jumper.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Might as well keep the Macura highlights rolling. I love this out of bounds play that Xavier runs pretty frequently, and I really love the way Sean O’Mara executes it. O’Mara’s job is to seal his man off to create a driving lane for Macura on the right side of the court, with everyone else occupying defenders on the left side. O’Mara does this so aggressively he drives Desrosiers across the lane and easily holds off the senior center while creating a nice lane for Macura who gives Mr. Buckets himself a deuce.

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Macura jumper.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Macura was on a roll here in the first half. This is a tremendous pass. It’s similar to the one above against Providence’s zone, but this time he freezes the defense by looking off to Stainbrook before firing to Farr.

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Macura pass to Farr.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This is bad recognition or communication or something by James Farr in this ball screen situation. Stainbrook and Dee Davis handle the ball screen ok and Bluiett bumps the screener (Chukwu) as he starts to roll. Farr is low and in position to see everything and help against Chukwu, but when his man Bentil sprints out to the 3-point line he follows, leaving the 7-foot-2 Chukwu open for a lob pass. Stainbrook bumped him as he was laying it in for the easy and-one to top off this defensive possession. The biggest problem is, Bentil will an attempt an occasional three (27% on 22 attempts) but he’s not a 3-point shooter. If Farr were guarding Rick Kreklow from Creighton or even Tyler Harris for Providence, it would have been a little bit more understandable.

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Paschal Chukwu and one.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Throughout the game against Providence’s zone, instead of planting someone in the high post at the free-throw line to facilitate the offense, Xavier rotated its guards when passing around the perimeter and had the opposite wing flash when the ball was thrown to either side. On this play use good quick ball movement to get the ball in the middle to Dee Davis, and he immediately knows what to do with it with the defense collapsing. This is great zone offense.

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Reynolds dunk.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Here’s Providence running a ball screen at Sean O’Mara. O’Mara does a good job hedging. Reynolds tries to give Bentil a bump on the road and Macura is in the right spot to help. Macura eyes the passer, but he doesn’t really know where Bentil is and ends up still giving Kyron Cartwright a passing lane to find Bentil with a nice bounde pass.

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Providence ball screen bucket.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Here’s the tough part about the last two defensive plays shown above. Another ball screen at O’Mara, and he and Larry Austin did a nice job of handling it. On the roll, Trevon Bluiett isn’t close enough to get a bump on Bentil but Myles Davis stayed in to help and discouraged the pass until O’Mara could recover. Providence did a great job of quickly rotating the ball around to Davis’ man (Jalen Lindsey) and he buried the three with Davis a step or two late on the closeout. I think these late first half sequences are a lot of what prompted Mack to go to the zone.

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Lindsey three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Providence attacks Xavier’s zone the same way the Musketeers attacked their’s, by moving the ball and having the bigs be active on the baseline. Here they get Xavier’s zone moving, and then find Bentil cutting across the baseline and Reynolds ends up fouling him. The issue here is that Xavier isn’t communicating well enough or recognizing what’s going on around them. Bluiett needs to see Bentil cutting and tell Reynolds where he is, and Dee Davis needs to be telling Reynolds to get back down once the ball gets swung from his left wing to the right wing and he’s able to recover to the middle. But again, these are some of the things they’ll have to feel out if they play more zone.

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Bentil gets open against the zone.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Here’s Xavier playing its 1-3-1 zone. Providence tries to still ball screen the top of it to let Dunn go to work, but Xavier handles it well. That’s the biggest benefit of the zone for this team in my opinion, it eliminates a lot of the ball screen defense issues they’ve been having this year (which seem like about 90% of the Musketeers’ issues on defense). It’s ironic to me that Stainbrook is the last line of defense that makes this play.

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Zone defense against a ball screen leads to Jalen dunk.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Dee Davis had 15 assists in this game. This is one of his better ones. Reynolds was trapped but the Musketeers keep the ball moving and Dee Davis keeps them in attack mode when he sees Providence’s defense on the move. This is also a nice finish by O’Mara.

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A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Also, just for fun… O’Mara should have this on his freshman year highlight reel. One-on-one in transition with Buckets and he gets the stop without fouling. I would have lost that bet.

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O'Mara stops Henton in transition.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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I’ll get into this more on a podcast sometime I’m sure, but this was one of my favorite moments of the season.

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Jalen Reynolds and Tyler Harris rub each other's head.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This is a great look at how physical and dominant Reynolds was playing in this game. When he sensed Myles Davis was stopped, he ducked in and not only drove Desrosiers back but walked him all the way up the lane, which gave Dee Davis an easy target to pass to. These are the types of plays where you can see Reynolds’ understanding and feel for the game improving.

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Reynolds dunk.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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If J.P. Macura could get his turnovers down, he might be the top candidate for point guard next season. I’m only half serious, but some of these passes are impressive, this one topping the list.

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Macura finds O'Mara.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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O’Mara wants more minutes. This is grown man basketball from him.

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O'Mara powers through Bentil.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Xavier switched it up again and went with some 2-3 zone. On this possession, Providence seems a little confused at first. The Friars lack flow and end up getting a mid-range floater from the worst offensive player on the court.

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2-3 zone

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This play more than any recently makes me feel like that tailbone injury must really be holding Stainbrook back. Boxing out and holding guys off when rebounding is one of his strengths, and on this play he lets Bentil toss him aside on his way to getting the stick back.

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Stainbrook misses box out.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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I’m not even sure exactly what this defensive look was from Xavier, whether the Musketeers were running a 3-2, 1-2-2 or just disguising one of their other looks that they had already shown. Either way, I love seeing Reynolds at the top of the zone, and this play is exactly why. I’m interested to see this wrinkle more going forward if the matchup calls for it.

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Reynolds deflection.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This is more great zone offense from Xavier. The guards rotate the ball quickly and keep the top of the Friars’ zone moving. Bluiett continues to creep in on the play looking for his opening, and then he sees it and Dee Davis finds him for what’s going to be a very high percentage shot for Bluiett.

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Bluiett mid-range.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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More great zone offense from the Musketeers. This is fun to watch. All the movement they create early in the play, forces the defense to communicate exceptionally well or there is going to be breakdowns. Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook make the play with beautiful reads and passes. Also notable, this is one of his few field goals that Reynolds didn’t dunk.

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Jalen layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This 1-3-1 zone was really effective in the second half of each game against Providence. The matchups don’t always dictate that zone would make sense against other opponents, but if the Musketeers are going to give up threes either way then maybe not giving up the easy layups in the zone that come with their ball screen defensive breakdowns in man-to-man is still worth it. Providence never really seemed to get comfortable with how it should attack this look from Xavier.

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Myles Davis deflection in the zone.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Best defensive play of the season? Best defensive play of the season.

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Dee steal.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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And obviously this is the dunk of the season. But, let’s not miss some of the under the radar gems in this clip. Starting with Reynolds’ holding his hands out pleading, almost looking frustrated with Dee when he reaches the 3-point line on this break. Also, Dee Davis showing probably the most emotion he’s shown on the court in a Xavier uniform during his career after the dunk. The bench reaction – Strength and Conditioning Coach Matt Jennings, Mario Mercurio and Larry Austin are my favorites. Macura giving Reynolds the most violent shove his arms can muster, and not one single muscle on Reynolds’ body noticing. And finally, I enjoy Reynolds’ rather calm jog back down the court while watching the bench celebrate after he let out his feral scream during the dunk.

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Reynolds off the backboard.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Xavier bounced back from Wednesday’s brutal loss home loss against Creighton to avenge an earlier conference loss against Providence.

After falling 69-66 in overtime at Providence on January 22, the Musketeers returned the favor at the Cintas Center on Saturday 78-69. Xavier had to overcome a 40-34 halftime deficit, and did so by changing defenses and hitting big shots.

There weren’t as many specific themes that really stuck out to me after re-watching the game that needed to be addressed by themselves, so this breakdown just follows the timeline of the game while making point of the plays that stood out. It also gives a better feel for how some of the runs happened in this back-and-forth game.

Earlier on this play, the Musketeers got Ben Bentil (6-8, 230) switched on Myles Davis. That’s sort of a positive and a negative for this situation, because they’re running the play for Jalen Reynolds. Bringing Bentil puts an extra defender with size in the play that can help and challenge Reynolds’ shot, but it also helps in the sense that Bentil isn’t exactly sure what Davis is doing and looks a little lost. Starting at the top of the key, Davis passes to the wing and then runs through to the baseline, an action that’s usually followed by him running off a screen back out to the perimeter. But this time, he nonchalantly turns and then sets a back screen on Reynolds’ defender (Desrosiers). Reynolds sets it up well by timing his cut with the pass from Dee Davis to Abell in the corner, and then makes a great catch off a great pass from Abell. This is a great play to get the big man going early.

This is one of the best plays Reynolds made all game in terms of showing his growth and maturity. In reality, he screwed up and lost his man (Henton) for a second. Henton slides to the other block and gets a quick pass before Reynolds can recover to do anything about it. Instead of getting frustrated and fouling Henton, giving him an and-one because he was already so close to the rim and in his shooting motion and giving Reynolds a stupid, meaningless foul that will cost him minutes later, Reynolds just lets Henton have his two points and moves on to the next play.

I’m not sure what J.P. Macura is doing here, but he definitely is still a work in process on the defensive end. Xavier always chases cutters around screens, because Bluiett is in position to offer help here if Macura’s man (Jalen Lindsey) curls around the screen and looks to drive. This is a bit of a moving screen on Providence to make it tougher on Macura, but still not very good. (Audio analysis in the background provided by my pops.)

Again, this shows the difference having a rim protector on the floor at all times makes for a defense. It seems like Xavier’s opponents have been able to finish off a too many drives to the rim like this with weak floating shots in the lane this year.

Xavier worked a ton on its zone offense in preparation for this game, and one of the big keys was hitting passes in this no-man’s land somewhere between the short corner and the block. I thought their ball movement against the zone was pretty good all night. Making a defense move and work like Providence has to do in this play often leads to good things. Good read and pass by Macura, and I’m sure the coaches are happy that the game plan sunk in for the freshman.

Something both Dee and Myles Davis understand is how to advance the ball up the court with the pass. The last clip Xavier broke down the zone by being patient and moving the ball well. This time they just run great transition offense and get a great look for Macura before the defense ever really sets up.

Might as well keep the Macura highlights rolling. I love this out of bounds play that Xavier runs pretty frequently, and I really love the way Sean O’Mara executes it. O’Mara’s job is to seal his man off to create a driving lane for Macura on the right side of the court, with everyone else occupying defenders on the left side. O’Mara does this so aggressively he drives Desrosiers across the lane and easily holds off the senior center while creating a nice lane for Macura who gives Mr. Buckets himself a deuce.

Macura was on a roll here in the first half. This is a tremendous pass. It’s similar to the one above against Providence’s zone, but this time he freezes the defense by looking off to Stainbrook before firing to Farr.

This is bad recognition or communication or something by James Farr in this ball screen situation. Stainbrook and Dee Davis handle the ball screen ok and Bluiett bumps the screener (Chukwu) as he starts to roll. Farr is low and in position to see everything and help against Chukwu, but when his man Bentil sprints out to the 3-point line he follows, leaving the 7-foot-2 Chukwu open for a lob pass. Stainbrook bumped him as he was laying it in for the easy and-one to top off this defensive possession. The biggest problem is, Bentil will an attempt an occasional three (27% on 22 attempts) but he’s not a 3-point shooter. If Farr were guarding Rick Kreklow from Creighton or even Tyler Harris for Providence, it would have been a little bit more understandable.

Throughout the game against Providence’s zone, instead of planting someone in the high post at the free-throw line to facilitate the offense, Xavier rotated its guards when passing around the perimeter and had the opposite wing flash when the ball was thrown to either side. On this play use good quick ball movement to get the ball in the middle to Dee Davis, and he immediately knows what to do with it with the defense collapsing. This is great zone offense.

Here’s Providence running a ball screen at Sean O’Mara. O’Mara does a good job hedging. Reynolds tries to give Bentil a bump on the road and Macura is in the right spot to help. Macura eyes the passer, but he doesn’t really know where Bentil is and ends up still giving Kyron Cartwright a passing lane to find Bentil with a nice bounde pass.

Here’s the tough part about the last two defensive plays shown above. Another ball screen at O’Mara, and he and Larry Austin did a nice job of handling it. On the roll, Trevon Bluiett isn’t close enough to get a bump on Bentil but Myles Davis stayed in to help and discouraged the pass until O’Mara could recover. Providence did a great job of quickly rotating the ball around to Davis’ man (Jalen Lindsey) and he buried the three with Davis a step or two late on the closeout. I think these late first half sequences are a lot of what prompted Mack to go to the zone.

Providence attacks Xavier’s zone the same way the Musketeers attacked their’s, by moving the ball and having the bigs be active on the baseline. Here they get Xavier’s zone moving, and then find Bentil cutting across the baseline and Reynolds ends up fouling him. The issue here is that Xavier isn’t communicating well enough or recognizing what’s going on around them. Bluiett needs to see Bentil cutting and tell Reynolds where he is, and Dee Davis needs to be telling Reynolds to get back down once the ball gets swung from his left wing to the right wing and he’s able to recover to the middle. But again, these are some of the things they’ll have to feel out if they play more zone.

Here’s Xavier playing its 1-3-1 zone. Providence tries to still ball screen the top of it to let Dunn go to work, but Xavier handles it well. That’s the biggest benefit of the zone for this team in my opinion, it eliminates a lot of the ball screen defense issues they’ve been having this year (which seem like about 90% of the Musketeers’ issues on defense). It’s ironic to me that Stainbrook is the last line of defense that makes this play.

Dee Davis had 15 assists in this game. This is one of his better ones. Reynolds was trapped but the Musketeers keep the ball moving and Dee Davis keeps them in attack mode when he sees Providence’s defense on the move. This is also a nice finish by O’Mara.

Also, just for fun… O’Mara should have this on his freshman year highlight reel. One-on-one in transition with Buckets and he gets the stop without fouling. I would have lost that bet.

I’ll get into this more on a podcast sometime I’m sure, but this was one of my favorite moments of the season.

This is a great look at how physical and dominant Reynolds was playing in this game. When he sensed Myles Davis was stopped, he ducked in and not only drove Desrosiers back but walked him all the way up the lane, which gave Dee Davis an easy target to pass to. These are the types of plays where you can see Reynolds’ understanding and feel for the game improving.

If J.P. Macura could get his turnovers down, he might be the top candidate for point guard next season. I’m only half serious, but some of these passes are impressive, this one topping the list.

O’Mara wants more minutes. This is grown man basketball from him.

Xavier switched it up again and went with some 2-3 zone. On this possession, Providence seems a little confused at first. The Friars lack flow and end up getting a mid-range floater from the worst offensive player on the court.

This play more than any recently makes me feel like that tailbone injury must really be holding Stainbrook back. Boxing out and holding guys off when rebounding is one of his strengths, and on this play he lets Bentil toss him aside on his way to getting the stick back.

I’m not even sure exactly what this defensive look was from Xavier, whether the Musketeers were running a 3-2, 1-2-2 or just disguising one of their other looks that they had already shown. Either way, I love seeing Reynolds at the top of the zone, and this play is exactly why. I’m interested to see this wrinkle more going forward if the matchup calls for it.

This is more great zone offense from Xavier. The guards rotate the ball quickly and keep the top of the Friars’ zone moving. Bluiett continues to creep in on the play looking for his opening, and then he sees it and Dee Davis finds him for what’s going to be a very high percentage shot for Bluiett.

More great zone offense from the Musketeers. This is fun to watch. All the movement they create early in the play, forces the defense to communicate exceptionally well or there is going to be breakdowns. Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook make the play with beautiful reads and passes. Also notable, this is one of his few field goals that Reynolds didn’t dunk.

This 1-3-1 zone was really effective in the second half of each game against Providence. The matchups don’t always dictate that zone would make sense against other opponents, but if the Musketeers are going to give up threes either way then maybe not giving up the easy layups in the zone that come with their ball screen defensive breakdowns in man-to-man is still worth it. Providence never really seemed to get comfortable with how it should attack this look from Xavier.

Best defensive play of the season? Best defensive play of the season.

And obviously this is the dunk of the season. But, let’s not miss some of the under the radar gems in this clip. Starting with Reynolds’ holding his hands out pleading, almost looking frustrated with Dee when he reaches the 3-point line on this break. Also, Dee Davis showing probably the most emotion he’s shown on the court in a Xavier uniform during his career after the dunk. The bench reaction – Strength and Conditioning Coach Matt Jennings, Mario Mercurio and Larry Austin are my favorites. Macura giving Reynolds the most violent shove his arms can muster, and not one single muscle on Reynolds’ body noticing. And finally, I enjoy Reynolds’ rather calm jog back down the court while watching the bench celebrate after he let out his feral scream during the dunk.

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