Breakdown: XU Falls to 0-2 Against St. John's

Rick takes a look with video examples at plays that stuck out from Xavier's 58-57 loss to St. John's at Madison Square Garden.

Xavier suffered its second loss to St. John's in the last nine days Monday night as the Red Storm beat the Musketeers 58-57 at Madison Square Garden.

The game featured runs by both teams, but in the end the Musketeers' 20 turnovers proved to be too costly in a tight game to pull off the road win.

The Musketeers won the battle of the boards, clearing nearly 84 percent of their defensive rebounding opportunities and over 43 percent on the offensive end, which led to 13 second chance points. However, outside of second chance opportunities they struggled to score in the paint as the shot-blocking duo of Chris Obekpa and Sir'Dominic Pointer combined for 10 blocked shots and influenced countless other misses.

Xavier came storming out of the gates and jumped on top with a quick 11-0 lead. I mentioned on the last podcast that the Musketeers' chemistry could be seen on the offensive end recently with the way they were moving the ball, and this possession displays that as well as any. They didn't get anything in transition, but they kept the ball moving quickly and never really gave St. John's defense a chance to get set.

Abell three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This play gives you a good look at Bluiett's feel for the game. This is just Xavier's normal ball screen offense against St. John's man-to-man defense, but Bluiett is to the point in his development where he's already comfortable enough in the offense to start reading what the defense is doing and improvise to take advantage of what he's being given. On this play, his man (Sir'Dominic Pointer) jumps out early to hedge the ball screen he's setting and so he quickly slips the screen and pops out to the wing for a three.

Bluiett three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This is before Chris Obekpa was in the game. The ball goes into Stainbrook, and he calmly surveys the defense before confidently working Pointer in the post and scoring on the block. I'm not sure what Amar Alibegovic was doing for the Johnnies here when he comes to try and double.

Stainbrook scores in the post.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This should look familiar. It's the exact same action that just about every team uses against Xavier because of the way it hedges ball screens. Myles Davis starts in the corner on the same side of the court that Stainbrook is setting a side ball screen for Bluiett. As Stainbrook rolls to the rim and Myles Davis' man (Phil Greene) has to sink in and help on him until Alibegovic can recover, Davis spaces higher to the wing and Bluiett passes it to him for the quick three. Once again, Alibegovic looks lost or just completely indifferent about the whole situation.

Myles Davis three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

A lot of the talk about Sir'Dominic Pointer centers around the plays he makes in transition, but here's a great example in the halfcourt that shows how much of a matchup problem he is for X. He catches this ball at the free throw line and uses his length, quickness and toughness to score on Bluiett. The Musketeers just don't have a good answer for him.

Pointer scores.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Here's where Obekpa entered the game and started to make a difference. Xavier ran a nice underneath out of bounds play where Myles Davis cross screened for Reynolds and then Bluiett screened for Davis to pop out to the corner while Dee Davis was zipping a bounce pass to the block for Bluiett. It was a nice thought, but it didn't matter because Obekpa wasn't giving up any more layups.

Obekpa gets a few blocks.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

It wasn't just the below the rim guys like Stainbrook and Bluiett that were affected by Obekpa's presence. Reynolds had trouble dealing with him too.

Obekpa blocks Reynolds.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Here's another look at why St. John's is so difficult to stop in transition. The Johnnies' four and five men run as well as anyone on Xavier's team, and they can throw it to any player one through four in transition to lead the break. This just seemed like a normal missed shot by X and defensive rebound for St. John's, but Pointer gets it near midcourt and beats three Musketeers back on the other end. Remy Abell doesn't offer Dee Davis any help in stopping the ball, and X's six-foot point guard is no match for Pointer in the paint.

Pointer in transition.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This is probably the best way to attack St. John's shot blockers. They play this super aggressive style on defense where they just swarm the ball and go all out for a block when someone catches it on the block or in the paint. Xavier typically uses the two big men against the zone to run a high-low action, but against St. John's length and athleticism that's very difficult to do. Here they basically invert that approach. They throw it to Stainbrook low towards the baseline, and as the defense collapses on him, Farr dives from the high-post to the opposite block for a layup.

Stainbrook dishes to Farr.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

And here's an example of what happened when they tried to run that high-low action.

Obekpa deflects pass.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

And again. This time the passing lane is there, but going high to low allows the super quick and bouncy Obekpa and Pointer the chance to turn and take a leaping swipe at the shot attempt.

Pointer block.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Remy Abell over helps on this play. After St. John's runs a ball screen over on the left side of the court, the ball is quickly swung to the right side of the court. Jalen Reynolds hedges the ball screen well, but he has a long way to recover to his man (Obekpa) in the short corner on the left side of the court. So Abell notices this and sees Branch looking that way towards Obekpa, and he jumps all the way across the lane to the opposite block to take that pass away. This of course leaves his man (Pointer) all alone on the right block. Branch throws the easy pass and Pointer gets the layup. Abell has to get wide in the middle of the lane and eye the passer, while trusting that his teammates on the ball are doing a good enough job of applying pressure so that it's not an easy diagonal crosscourt pass to Obekpa. Also, Reynolds is going to be recovering into that passing lane, so the window to make that play is very short for Branch. Playing in proper help position right in the middle of the lane probably would have been enough for Abell.

Pointer layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Here's another example of how ridiculously dominant (almost comical) St. John's shot blocking was against X, even on the fast break. I think we all agree that the proper play here was to throw an off the backboard oop to a trailing J.P. Macura.

Bluiett blocked.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This is simply Dee Davis losing his man, which really can't happen. He's trying to communicate on ball screen defense and make sure his teammates are taking care of Obekpa on the roll, but in the process he loses where his man (Harrison) is at. I used a nearly identical clip in the breakdown from the first St. John's game, but instead of senior Dee Davis making the mistake it was freshman J.P. Macura.

Harrison layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Pointer and one.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Larry Austin was once again a bright spot for the Musketeers in his limited action. On this play, he caught the St. John's zone by surprise. The Johnnies weren't used to that type of burst or aggressiveness from the Xavier backcourt.

Larry Austin layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Here's something that doesn't really look like a big deal, but it's another one of those small things that makes a big difference at this level. Earlier I showed a clip of Pointer in transition against Dee Davis where Abell doesn't really step up and offer any support for Davis. This time the Musketeers do a much better job of getting back and stopping the ball in transition. Stopping the ball is the first priority, so the idea is to build walls up around it and then play from the inside out while recovering to shooters. Bluiett takes the ball, but that's a matchup Pointer could easily exploit with a quick euro-step if it weren't for Abell and Austin sprinting back and getting tight next to Bluiett to offer him help. Instead of an easy finish at the rim where Pointer excels, he shoots an awkward looking mid-range jumper.

Transition defense.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

And here's the exact opposite of that a little bit later in the half with Macura, Abell and Dee Davis playing transition defense. Also, again, it's crazy to watch Pointer grab a rebound and then run a fast break like that.

Harrison layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

D'Angelo Harrison made some really impressive plays in the second half of this game while still nursing that sore calf that was clearly bothering him. Abell typically doesn't get beat by letting his man reject a ball screen, but this time Harrison gets him and is able to beat him baseline - the cardinal sin in the Musketeers defense because all of the help is designed to be towards the middle. Harrison uses his size and takes it right into Reynolds' chest on the other side of the rim to eliminate the possibility of having his shot blocked.

Harrison finish.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

One of the things that helped Xavier make its run in the second half was getting Bluiett going from the high post area against the zone. He hit a few shots and made another play or two from there, but this one stuck out to me. Harrison was clearly favoring his left calf for a few possessions, and particularly on this one when he was coming back on the defensive end. It seems like Bluiett saw that, and when he saw Harrison matchup with him he jab stepped towards the side that he was limping on and rose up for what he knew would be a wide open jumper.

Bluiett jumper.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This is a wrinkle that Xavier's staff found at some point in the second half against St. John's, and it helped them get most of their ball movement and points late in the game. This is more like a set play against the man-to-man, but they ran a very similar concept against the zone several times as well. Basically, they throw it into Stainbrook, and as all the Johnnies turn their heads toward him and one help defender likely goes to double-team him the guard that passed it to him cuts through and back screens for the big man on the opposite side. On this play, Dee Davis throws it in and then loops underneath Stainbrook to screen Farr's man (Harrison). The play works perfectly, but Farr rushes the shot because he's worried about the quickness of Pointer and Obekpa. Even when they weren't blocking shots, their presence was felt.

Farr misses layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Here it is later in the game against the zone. This time Dee Davis cuts over top of Stainbrook, but the idea is the same.

Bluiett fouled.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

Xavier had 20 turnovers in this game while St. John's only had eight. That was the difference. Most of them were either such awful passes or such boneheaded plays that there wasn't anything worth looking at. This is a play that may be worth attempting against some teams, but Myles Davis has to know the opponent better. Dee Davis does come off the back screen from Reynolds with two steps on his man, but against St. John's it's not one defender you have to worry about… it's the whole team. Throwing a pass through four guys and across the lane against a team with their length and athleticism just isn't going to happen very often.

Pointer steal.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

As I mentioned, Harrison made some impressive shots down the stretch. None were better than this long NBA three at the end of the shot clock.

Harrison dagger.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This was after a timeout. I'm pretty sure Chris Mack had drawn something up that involved Myles Davis on the weak side, but I don't know if it was supposed to be this easy. St. John's just completely loses track of him as X overloads the left side of the floor, and Stainbrook finds Davis for a layup.

Myles Davis layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

And right after that shot, which put X up by one, Dee Davis and Myles Davis fail to communicate in transition defense on the other end. Both jump to take Harrison as he cuts through the lane, leaving Phil Greene wide open for ther corner three to put St. John's back up by two.

Greene three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

This is a great defensive possession by Reynolds that he capped with an even better individual play. He's moving constantly, hedges back-to-back high ball screens, recovers quickly both times, and then when Abell takes his man and calls for a switch he communicates the backside rotation out with Bluiett, before timing up and swatting Harrison's drive on the weak side help for Dee Davis.

Reynolds blocks a shot.

A video posted by @rickbroering on


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This play gives you a good look at Bluiett's feel for the game. This is just Xavier's normal ball screen offense against St. John's man-to-man defense, but Bluiett is to the point in his development where he's already comfortable enough in the offense to start reading what the defense is doing and improvise to take advantage of what he's being given. On this play, his man (Sir'Dominic Pointer) jumps out early to hedge the ball screen he's setting and so he quickly slips the screen and pops out to the wing for a three. \r\n

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Bluiett three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This is before Chris Obekpa was in the game. The ball goes into Stainbrook, and he calmly surveys the defense before confidently working Pointer in the post and scoring on the block. I'm not sure what Amar Alibegovic was doing for the Johnnies here when he comes to try and double. \r\n

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Stainbrook scores in the post.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This should look familiar. It's the exact same action that just about every team uses against Xavier because of the way it hedges ball screens. Myles Davis starts in the corner on the same side of the court that Stainbrook is setting a side ball screen for Bluiett. As Stainbrook rolls to the rim and Myles Davis' man (Phil Greene) has to sink in and help on him until Alibegovic can recover, Davis spaces higher to the wing and Bluiett passes it to him for the quick three. Once again, Alibegovic looks lost or just completely indifferent about the whole situation.\r\n

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Myles Davis three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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A lot of the talk about Sir'Dominic Pointer centers around the plays he makes in transition, but here's a great example in the halfcourt that shows how much of a matchup problem he is for X. He catches this ball at the free throw line and uses his length, quickness and toughness to score on Bluiett. The Musketeers just don't have a good answer for him. \r\n

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Pointer scores.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Here's where Obekpa entered the game and started to make a difference. Xavier ran a nice underneath out of bounds play where Myles Davis cross screened for Reynolds and then Bluiett screened for Davis to pop out to the corner while Dee Davis was zipping a bounce pass to the block for Bluiett. It was a nice thought, but it didn't matter because Obekpa wasn't giving up any more layups. \r\n

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Obekpa gets a few blocks.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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\r\nIt wasn't just the below the rim guys like Stainbrook and Bluiett that were affected by Obekpa's presence. Reynolds had trouble dealing with him too. \r\n

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Obekpa blocks Reynolds.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Here's another look at why St. John's is so difficult to stop in transition. The Johnnies' four and five men run as well as anyone on Xavier's team, and they can throw it to any player one through four in transition to lead the break. This just seemed like a normal missed shot by X and defensive rebound for St. John's, but Pointer gets it near midcourt and beats three Musketeers back on the other end. Remy Abell doesn't offer Dee Davis any help in stopping the ball, and X's six-foot point guard is no match for Pointer in the paint. \r\n

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Pointer in transition.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This is probably the best way to attack St. John's shot blockers. They play this super aggressive style on defense where they just swarm the ball and go all out for a block when someone catches it on the block or in the paint. Xavier typically uses the two big men against the zone to run a high-low action, but against St. John's length and athleticism that's very difficult to do. Here they basically invert that approach. They throw it to Stainbrook low towards the baseline, and as the defense collapses on him, Farr dives from the high-post to the opposite block for a layup. \r\n

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Stainbrook dishes to Farr.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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And here's an example of what happened when they tried to run that high-low action. \r\n

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Obekpa deflects pass.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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And again. This time the passing lane is there, but going high to low allows the super quick and bouncy Obekpa and Pointer the chance to turn and take a leaping swipe at the shot attempt. \r\n

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Pointer block.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Remy Abell over helps on this play. After St. John's runs a ball screen over on the left side of the court, the ball is quickly swung to the right side of the court. Jalen Reynolds hedges the ball screen well, but he has a long way to recover to his man (Obekpa) in the short corner on the left side of the court. So Abell notices this and sees Branch looking that way towards Obekpa, and he jumps all the way across the lane to the opposite block to take that pass away. This of course leaves his man (Pointer) all alone on the right block. Branch throws the easy pass and Pointer gets the layup. Abell has to get wide in the middle of the lane and eye the passer, while trusting that his teammates on the ball are doing a good enough job of applying pressure so that it's not an easy diagonal crosscourt pass to Obekpa. Also, Reynolds is going to be recovering into that passing lane, so the window to make that play is very short for Branch. Playing in proper help position right in the middle of the lane probably would have been enough for Abell. \r\n

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Pointer layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Here's another example of how ridiculously dominant (almost comical) St. John's shot blocking was against X, even on the fast break. I think we all agree that the proper play here was to throw an off the backboard oop to a trailing J.P. Macura. \r\n

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Bluiett blocked.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This is simply Dee Davis losing his man, which really can't happen. He's trying to communicate on ball screen defense and make sure his teammates are taking care of Obekpa on the roll, but in the process he loses where his man (Harrison) is at. I used a nearly identical clip in the breakdown from the first St. John's game, but instead of senior Dee Davis making the mistake it was freshman J.P. Macura. \r\n

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Harrison layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Pointer and one.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Larry Austin was once again a bright spot for the Musketeers in his limited action. On this play, he caught the St. John's zone by surprise. The Johnnies weren't used to that type of burst or aggressiveness from the Xavier backcourt. \r\n

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Larry Austin layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Here's something that doesn't really look like a big deal, but it's another one of those small things that makes a big difference at this level. Earlier I showed a clip of Pointer in transition against Dee Davis where Abell doesn't really step up and offer any support for Davis. This time the Musketeers do a much better job of getting back and stopping the ball in transition. Stopping the ball is the first priority, so the idea is to build walls up around it and then play from the inside out while recovering to shooters. Bluiett takes the ball, but that's a matchup Pointer could easily exploit with a quick euro-step if it weren't for Abell and Austin sprinting back and getting tight next to Bluiett to offer him help. Instead of an easy finish at the rim where Pointer excels, he shoots an awkward looking mid-range jumper. \r\n

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Transition defense.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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And here's the exact opposite of that a little bit later in the half with Macura, Abell and Dee Davis playing transition defense. Also, again, it's crazy to watch Pointer grab a rebound and then run a fast break like that. \r\n

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Harrison layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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D'Angelo Harrison made some really impressive plays in the second half of this game while still nursing that sore calf that was clearly bothering him. Abell typically doesn't get beat by letting his man reject a ball screen, but this time Harrison gets him and is able to beat him baseline - the cardinal sin in the Musketeers defense because all of the help is designed to be towards the middle. Harrison uses his size and takes it right into Reynolds' chest on the other side of the rim to eliminate the possibility of having his shot blocked. \r\n

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Harrison finish.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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One of the things that helped Xavier make its run in the second half was getting Bluiett going from the high post area against the zone. He hit a few shots and made another play or two from there, but this one stuck out to me. Harrison was clearly favoring his left calf for a few possessions, and particularly on this one when he was coming back on the defensive end. It seems like Bluiett saw that, and when he saw Harrison matchup with him he jab stepped towards the side that he was limping on and rose up for what he knew would be a wide open jumper. \r\n

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Bluiett jumper.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This is a wrinkle that Xavier's staff found at some point in the second half against St. John's, and it helped them get most of their ball movement and points late in the game. This is more like a set play against the man-to-man, but they ran a very similar concept against the zone several times as well. Basically, they throw it into Stainbrook, and as all the Johnnies turn their heads toward him and one help defender likely goes to double-team him the guard that passed it to him cuts through and back screens for the big man on the opposite side. On this play, Dee Davis throws it in and then loops underneath Stainbrook to screen Farr's man (Harrison). The play works perfectly, but Farr rushes the shot because he's worried about the quickness of Pointer and Obekpa. Even when they weren't blocking shots, their presence was felt. \r\n

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Farr misses layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Here it is later in the game against the zone. This time Dee Davis cuts over top of Stainbrook, but the idea is the same. \r\n

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Bluiett fouled.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Xavier had 20 turnovers in this game while St. John's only had eight. That was the difference. Most of them were either such awful passes or such boneheaded plays that there wasn't anything worth looking at. This is a play that may be worth attempting against some teams, but Myles Davis has to know the opponent better. Dee Davis does come off the back screen from Reynolds with two steps on his man, but against St. John's it's not one defender you have to worry about… it's the whole team. Throwing a pass through four guys and across the lane against a team with their length and athleticism just isn't going to happen very often. \r\n

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Pointer steal.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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As I mentioned, Harrison made some impressive shots down the stretch. None were better than this long NBA three at the end of the shot clock. \r\n

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Harrison dagger.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This was after a timeout. I'm pretty sure Chris Mack had drawn something up that involved Myles Davis on the weak side, but I don't know if it was supposed to be this easy. St. John's just completely loses track of him as X overloads the left side of the floor, and Stainbrook finds Davis for a layup. \r\n

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Myles Davis layup.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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And right after that shot, which put X up by one, Dee Davis and Myles Davis fail to communicate in transition defense on the other end. Both jump to take Harrison as he cuts through the lane, leaving Phil Greene wide open for ther corner three to put St. John's back up by two. \r\n

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Greene three.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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This is a great defensive possession by Reynolds that he capped with an even better individual play. He's moving constantly, hedges back-to-back high ball screens, recovers quickly both times, and then when Abell takes his man and calls for a switch he communicates the backside rotation out with Bluiett, before timing up and swatting Harrison's drive on the weak side help for Dee Davis. \r\n

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Reynolds blocks a shot.

A video posted by @rickbroering on

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Xavier suffered its second loss to St. John's in the last nine days Monday night as the Red Storm beat the Musketeers 58-57 at Madison Square Garden.

The game featured runs by both teams, but in the end the Musketeers' 20 turnovers proved to be too costly in a tight game to pull off the road win.

The Musketeers won the battle of the boards, clearing nearly 84 percent of their defensive rebounding opportunities and over 43 percent on the offensive end, which led to 13 second chance points. However, outside of second chance opportunities they struggled to score in the paint as the shot-blocking duo of Chris Obekpa and Sir'Dominic Pointer combined for 10 blocked shots and influenced countless other misses.

Xavier came storming out of the gates and jumped on top with a quick 11-0 lead. I mentioned on the last podcast that the Musketeers' chemistry could be seen on the offensive end recently with the way they were moving the ball, and this possession displays that as well as any. They didn't get anything in transition, but they kept the ball moving quickly and never really gave St. John's defense a chance to get set.

This play gives you a good look at Bluiett's feel for the game. This is just Xavier's normal ball screen offense against St. John's man-to-man defense, but Bluiett is to the point in his development where he's already comfortable enough in the offense to start reading what the defense is doing and improvise to take advantage of what he's being given. On this play, his man (Sir'Dominic Pointer) jumps out early to hedge the ball screen he's setting and so he quickly slips the screen and pops out to the wing for a three.

This is before Chris Obekpa was in the game. The ball goes into Stainbrook, and he calmly surveys the defense before confidently working Pointer in the post and scoring on the block. I'm not sure what Amar Alibegovic was doing for the Johnnies here when he comes to try and double.

This should look familiar. It's the exact same action that just about every team uses against Xavier because of the way it hedges ball screens. Myles Davis starts in the corner on the same side of the court that Stainbrook is setting a side ball screen for Bluiett. As Stainbrook rolls to the rim and Myles Davis' man (Phil Greene) has to sink in and help on him until Alibegovic can recover, Davis spaces higher to the wing and Bluiett passes it to him for the quick three. Once again, Alibegovic looks lost or just completely indifferent about the whole situation.

A lot of the talk about Sir'Dominic Pointer centers around the plays he makes in transition, but here's a great example in the halfcourt that shows how much of a matchup problem he is for X. He catches this ball at the free throw line and uses his length, quickness and toughness to score on Bluiett. The Musketeers just don't have a good answer for him.

Here's where Obekpa entered the game and started to make a difference. Xavier ran a nice underneath out of bounds play where Myles Davis cross screened for Reynolds and then Bluiett screened for Davis to pop out to the corner while Dee Davis was zipping a bounce pass to the block for Bluiett. It was a nice thought, but it didn't matter because Obekpa wasn't giving up any more layups.

It wasn't just the below the rim guys like Stainbrook and Bluiett that were affected by Obekpa's presence. Reynolds had trouble dealing with him too.

Here's another look at why St. John's is so difficult to stop in transition. The Johnnies' four and five men run as well as anyone on Xavier's team, and they can throw it to any player one through four in transition to lead the break. This just seemed like a normal missed shot by X and defensive rebound for St. John's, but Pointer gets it near midcourt and beats three Musketeers back on the other end. Remy Abell doesn't offer Dee Davis any help in stopping the ball, and X's six-foot point guard is no match for Pointer in the paint.

This is probably the best way to attack St. John's shot blockers. They play this super aggressive style on defense where they just swarm the ball and go all out for a block when someone catches it on the block or in the paint. Xavier typically uses the two big men against the zone to run a high-low action, but against St. John's length and athleticism that's very difficult to do. Here they basically invert that approach. They throw it to Stainbrook low towards the baseline, and as the defense collapses on him, Farr dives from the high-post to the opposite block for a layup.

And here's an example of what happened when they tried to run that high-low action.

And again. This time the passing lane is there, but going high to low allows the super quick and bouncy Obekpa and Pointer the chance to turn and take a leaping swipe at the shot attempt.

Remy Abell over helps on this play. After St. John's runs a ball screen over on the left side of the court, the ball is quickly swung to the right side of the court. Jalen Reynolds hedges the ball screen well, but he has a long way to recover to his man (Obekpa) in the short corner on the left side of the court. So Abell notices this and sees Branch looking that way towards Obekpa, and he jumps all the way across the lane to the opposite block to take that pass away. This of course leaves his man (Pointer) all alone on the right block. Branch throws the easy pass and Pointer gets the layup. Abell has to get wide in the middle of the lane and eye the passer, while trusting that his teammates on the ball are doing a good enough job of applying pressure so that it's not an easy diagonal crosscourt pass to Obekpa. Also, Reynolds is going to be recovering into that passing lane, so the window to make that play is very short for Branch. Playing in proper help position right in the middle of the lane probably would have been enough for Abell.

Here's another example of how ridiculously dominant (almost comical) St. John's shot blocking was against X, even on the fast break. I think we all agree that the proper play here was to throw an off the backboard oop to a trailing J.P. Macura.

This is simply Dee Davis losing his man, which really can't happen. He's trying to communicate on ball screen defense and make sure his teammates are taking care of Obekpa on the roll, but in the process he loses where his man (Harrison) is at. I used a nearly identical clip in the breakdown from the first St. John's game, but instead of senior Dee Davis making the mistake it was freshman J.P. Macura.

Larry Austin was once again a bright spot for the Musketeers in his limited action. On this play, he caught the St. John's zone by surprise. The Johnnies weren't used to that type of burst or aggressiveness from the Xavier backcourt.

Here's something that doesn't really look like a big deal, but it's another one of those small things that makes a big difference at this level. Earlier I showed a clip of Pointer in transition against Dee Davis where Abell doesn't really step up and offer any support for Davis. This time the Musketeers do a much better job of getting back and stopping the ball in transition. Stopping the ball is the first priority, so the idea is to build walls up around it and then play from the inside out while recovering to shooters. Bluiett takes the ball, but that's a matchup Pointer could easily exploit with a quick euro-step if it weren't for Abell and Austin sprinting back and getting tight next to Bluiett to offer him help. Instead of an easy finish at the rim where Pointer excels, he shoots an awkward looking mid-range jumper.

And here's the exact opposite of that a little bit later in the half with Macura, Abell and Dee Davis playing transition defense. Also, again, it's crazy to watch Pointer grab a rebound and then run a fast break like that.

D'Angelo Harrison made some really impressive plays in the second half of this game while still nursing that sore calf that was clearly bothering him. Abell typically doesn't get beat by letting his man reject a ball screen, but this time Harrison gets him and is able to beat him baseline - the cardinal sin in the Musketeers defense because all of the help is designed to be towards the middle. Harrison uses his size and takes it right into Reynolds' chest on the other side of the rim to eliminate the possibility of having his shot blocked.

One of the things that helped Xavier make its run in the second half was getting Bluiett going from the high post area against the zone. He hit a few shots and made another play or two from there, but this one stuck out to me. Harrison was clearly favoring his left calf for a few possessions, and particularly on this one when he was coming back on the defensive end. It seems like Bluiett saw that, and when he saw Harrison matchup with him he jab stepped towards the side that he was limping on and rose up for what he knew would be a wide open jumper.

This is a wrinkle that Xavier's staff found at some point in the second half against St. John's, and it helped them get most of their ball movement and points late in the game. This is more like a set play against the man-to-man, but they ran a very similar concept against the zone several times as well. Basically, they throw it into Stainbrook, and as all the Johnnies turn their heads toward him and one help defender likely goes to double-team him the guard that passed it to him cuts through and back screens for the big man on the opposite side. On this play, Dee Davis throws it in and then loops underneath Stainbrook to screen Farr's man (Harrison). The play works perfectly, but Farr rushes the shot because he's worried about the quickness of Pointer and Obekpa. Even when they weren't blocking shots, their presence was felt.

Here it is later in the game against the zone. This time Dee Davis cuts over top of Stainbrook, but the idea is the same.

Xavier had 20 turnovers in this game while St. John's only had eight. That was the difference. Most of them were either such awful passes or such boneheaded plays that there wasn't anything worth looking at. This is a play that may be worth attempting against some teams, but Myles Davis has to know the opponent better. Dee Davis does come off the back screen from Reynolds with two steps on his man, but against St. John's it's not one defender you have to worry about… it's the whole team. Throwing a pass through four guys and across the lane against a team with their length and athleticism just isn't going to happen very often.

As I mentioned, Harrison made some impressive shots down the stretch. None were better than this long NBA three at the end of the shot clock.

This was after a timeout. I'm pretty sure Chris Mack had drawn something up that involved Myles Davis on the weak side, but I don't know if it was supposed to be this easy. St. John's just completely loses track of him as X overloads the left side of the floor, and Stainbrook finds Davis for a layup.

And right after that shot, which put X up by one, Dee Davis and Myles Davis fail to communicate in transition defense on the other end. Both jump to take Harrison as he cuts through the lane, leaving Phil Greene wide open for ther corner three to put St. John's back up by two.

This is a great defensive possession by Reynolds that he capped with an even better individual play. He's moving constantly, hedges back-to-back high ball screens, recovers quickly both times, and then when Abell takes his man and calls for a switch he communicates the backside rotation out with Bluiett, before timing up and swatting Harrison's drive on the weak side help for Dee Davis.

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