Xavier defeated Saint John’s 82-77 Sunday evening at Madison Square Garden, a game marred by what appeared to be a serious injury to Edmond Sumner and what was definitely a severe injury to the game of basketball inflicted by Ed Driscoll and his crew of referees, who made the game virtually unwatchable, except perhaps to aficionados of middle age male tit jiggle. Because they got a lot of camera time … Saint John’s came out flat and were lucky to be down seven at the half: they were 2 for 12 from three, had eight turnovers and were outrebounded by ten. The only reason they weren’t down more was that Xavier, an alleged top 25 team, was just as bad: they had ten turnovers and were one for nine from three. Xavier extended their lead to 15 early in the second half and just when it looked like it was going to turn into a laugher Saint John’s decided to play some basketball: they went on a couple of eight point runs that got them to within a basket a couple of times, but just couldn’t get over the hump. One time Lovett took a dumb shot and another time Ellison took one and collectively they missed a bunch of crunch time free throws. That Saint John’s resurgence coincided with Sumner’s injury isn’t lost on me, it’s just that being ever the optimist – my glass is half full, of hemlock – I prefer to emphasize the positive. That being the case I’d put this somewhere between a pretty good loss and a moral victory: other than Sumner – who is, or at least was, an NBA talent – Xavier starts five seniors; and at the risk of being morbid, what the second half showed is that take away Sumner and Saint John’s underclassmen are every bit as good as Xavier seniors. How’s that for a silver lining … Once again the picture tells the tale:
SJU got close in the second half but as is often is the case when a team makes a big come back the energy expended getting them within range exhausts the reserves they need to finish the job. Oh well. Hopefully they learned that not lazing their way to a double digit deficit is harder than putting forth the effort to keep it a bit closer. The big number from the box score is rebounds: Xavier was plus 20, which essentially game over. You often hear that rebounding is an effort stat and it is to an extent, but it’s also a size stat: Denis Rodman wouldn’t be in the hall of fame if he was 5’2″. Xavier doesn’t start anyone smaller than 6’5″ and Saint John’s doesn’t start anyone taller than 6’7″ and SJ’s big men weigh about as much as Xavier’s guards and that’s a lot to overcome by a vague appeals to effort. None of Saint John’s big men – particularly Yakwe but none of them – are good rebounders: some of that is effort, sure, but some of it’s instinct and some of it’s footwork and some of it’s positioning, all of which comprise experience, which Saint John’s bigs don’t have. It didn’t help that Saint John’s shot 20 percent from three – and in fact during most of the second half run they stopped shooting threes altogether – and neither did turning the ball over 13 times and missing eight free throws … This recap wouldn’t be complete without me heaping oppobrium of the referees – who were terrible, they made Jim Burr and Tim Higgins look like King Solomon and Learned Hand – and kudos to Donny Marshall’s terrifying eyebrows for calling them out for it repeatedly during the broadcast. In 40 minutes they called 57 fouls, which resulted in 66 free throw attempts, which accounted for 57 points, roughly a third of the points scored in total. It would have been more but the teams missed 17 free throws combined. And it wasn’t just the number of calls, it was their randomness. What was a foul on one end was a play-on on the other and for every phantom infraction called there were two that should have been. There were a couple of bad ones I jotted down – Missini being mugged by three players after stealing the ball at midcourt and Owens getting one while retrieving a ball otherwise stolen cleanly – but the epitome of the crew’s sheer shitiosity is that at the end of the game, when Saint John’s was trying to foul, they didn’t call one. Ahmed nearly had to decapitate his man to get that dope Driscoll to blow his whistle. It was really an atrocious and embarrassing display. On a side note, a couple of weeks ago versus Xavier the refs called 47 fouls, which resulted in 57 free throws. Over 80 minutes versus Xavier that’s 104 fouls, 123 free throw attempts, and 86 made free throws. I don’t know what that is, but it’s not basketball … Fox had a quick shot of Mullin leaning on the scorer’s table late in the second half. (MJ Maher could not be reached for comment.) He looked at the end pretty disgusted and I can’t blame him … Ten and 13, tied for sixth in conference, Marquette up next, take the points
PLAYERS: Ponds led all scorers with 23 points, which might have been more had Malik Ellison passed him the ball every once in a while. Oh for six from three but 11-13 from the free throw line which makes him 19 of 21 over his last two games … Lovett had a quiet 11 points and five assists. Uncharacteristically missed two free throws late … Ahmed had 11 points including three threes but sat during most of the second half run. Seems to have dyed the top of his head a lovely shade of Lucille Ball, which should delight the red and white club no end. All he needs now are a couple of tattoos to complete the tableau … Owens had seven points, six rebounds and four blocks – three of them pretty spectacular at the rim – before fouling out. Once again had to be pulled away while woofing over a fallen opponent. Do I detect an anger management issue? … Williams (nine points, three rebounds) provided a welcome inside presence during the second half run. It was his foul that sent Sumner to the locker room but it wasn’t much of one: Sumner seems to have just landed awkwardly. They showed the replay several times but I only watched it once, because legs aren’t supposed to bend that way … Missini played a nice five minutes in the first half: he had a step back jumper, a three and a mid court steal for a breakaway. Unfortunately he clanked a couple of threes in the second half when they might have mattered … Malik Ellison had seven points and six assists which might seem pretty good if you hadn’t watched the game. Unfortunately I did. He was two of eight from the floor, zero of three from three – he seems to be cocking the ball behind his ear now a la George Gervin, which is the only thing about his game reminiscent of Gervin’s – and three of five from the free throw line, which 60 percent raised his average because he’s a lousy free throw shooter. He took a couple of really egregiously bad shots during Saint John’s aborted comeback: he either imagines himself Kobe Bryant or has worse court vision than Ray Charles … Yakwe was the victim of a couple of terrible calls and mostly sat with four fouls … Fruedenburcg played which was bad, but he played instead of Alibagowith, which is good
NOTES: Since this nonsense has been going on for three years now I’ve been going back and reading my prior posts to make sure I’m not plowing the same field twice and also to see if there’s any low hanging fruit I missed, because 30 recaps is a lot of recaps and even I run out of interesting things to say every once in a while. Looking back at Xavier this morning I saw that I’ve never done a famous alumni list which got me excited for a moment but then when I googled it I remembered why: Xavier’s most famous alumni is Jim Bunning. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Jim Bunning – he won 200 games over 17 years; was second only to Walter Johnson in strike outs when he retired; threw a perfect game; threw a no hitter in each league; and once got out of an inning by striking out the side on nine pitches; and after that served a couple of terms in the US senate. But that’s not much of a legacy for a university that’s been around since 1840. In fact other than him and crybaby John Boehner, left wing hack Gary Wills and a couple of basketball players (Brian Grant, Lionel Chalmers, James Posey, David West) I’ve never heard of any of the rest of these dopes, the most noteworthy of whom are the actor Robert Romanus, who is “perhaps best known for his role … as Natalie Green’s boyfriend Snake on The Facts of Life”; Rhine McLin, Mayor of Dayton (although a Xavier grad she also holds an associate’s degree in mortuary science from Cincinnati College); and Laura Esselman, a former contestant known as Red Velvet on a television called The Bachelor, who don’t bother googling, if she was hot her picture’d be up top and I wouldn’t have had to spend 20 minutes looking for stills of a Facts of Life porn parody. So to recap: the most illustrious graduates of Xavier University in nearly 200 years are a baseball player and a second rate actor famous for taking Mindy Cohn’s virginity. Compared to that Saint John’s is the Sorbonne … Xavier is also notable for having two sports mascots. Their original mascot was the musketeer, an early sort of soldier armed with a firearm, as made famous by Alexandre Dumas in his serial The Three Musketeers. This makes sense: like Redskins and Braves musketeers were manly men who defeated their enemies on the field of battle, just as sports fans hope their teams will defeat their opponents on the field of play. In 1985 though, someone called Sally Watson, then spirit squad coordinator – I mistakenly joined the spirit squad in college after misreading their poster as the spirits squad and quickly resigned after learning that they did something other than getting shitfaced at basketball games – decided that the musketeers “scared little children” and so designed a second mascot, the Blue Blob. As its name suggests, the blue blob is an amorphous globule of blue fluff with cartoon eyes and a big fluffy white nose. As its name doesn’t suggest the blue blob has a 22 inch tongue, which “hangs out inside its mouth until the person uses his or her arm to operate it, licking children.” Yes you read that right: Xavier replaced as its mascot a character upon which Walt Disney based his Mouseketeers with a giant blue monster that performs fellatio on children. This is I suppose progress, although of what sort remains a mystery.