By: Tim Wilmes
Xavier came up with a 67-63 victory in a nationally-televised matchup against Tennessee last night that came down to the wire at Cintas Center.
Youthful Squad Stepping Up
Xavier has made a living by banking on its young playmakers so far this season. Freshmen guards Myles Davis and Brandon Randolph have both shown poise and the ability to be clutch playmakers in the young season. Davis finished the Tennessee game with 13 points and two assists and made some big shots in the game, including a clutch three-point shot to end the first half and big free throws that sealed a Xavier victory at the end of the game.
The downside to a young starting squad, of course, means that there will be a lot of little mistakes as the younger players adjust to basketball at the college level. The silver lining: XU’s young playmakers should have worked out the kinks once tournament time rolls around.
The Musketeers are a new team in 2013-14. They have great depth and a new fluid-looking high-pace offense. In Xavier’s first two games, the point distribution has been spread pretty evenly between the players which should take some stress off of sophomore star guard Semaj Christon. Most importantly, the Musketeers finally have an established presence down low. Junior center Matt Stainbrook and senior forward Erik Stenger made a big impact against Tennessee, recording 12 points and nine rebounds and seven points and seven rebounds, respectively. The Musketeers outrebounded Tennessee 40-34.
More of the Same
Sloppy play and a lack of discipline are still part of the Xavier equation. The Musketeers had 16 turnovers and went 13-24 (54.2 percent) at the free throw line last night. This could improve as the season progresses. For now, a lot of little mistakes are going to leave a big hurdle to overcome during games.
Semaj as Leader
Throughout the Tennessee game, sophomore guard Semaj Christon made the big plays in the game when he had to, including a miracle turnaround basket after a series of Musketeer turnovers. So far this season, Christon has done a good job being more aggressive when he’s needed, and he has the ability to make the big shots in crunch time. While he’s not the most vocal of leaders, against Tennessee he certainly led by example. Christon finished with 18 points but went 4-10 from the free throw line, a curse that continues to plague him.