Sunday, December 18, 2011

Without their back court, Xavier gets drilled by Oral Roberts

Oral Roberts is not a bad basketball team by any stretch of the imagination.

They were 7-4 on the season heading into Sunday's game against Xavier. They hung with Gonzaga in Spokane and West Virginia in Morgantown. They, along with Oakland and South Dakota State, are contenders for the Summit League crown.

But the Golden Eagles are not exactly a great basketball team, either. They lost to UT-San Antonio and needed a buzzer-beater to knock off Arkansas-Little Rock.

Which is why their win at Xavier on Sunday was so surprising.

ORU outscored Xavier 35-12 over a 16 minute stretch in the first half, went into the break up 36-19 and built their lead up to 60-30 with just under four minutes left in what eventually became a 64-42 win.

At Xavier.

The No. 9 team in the country.

That is, in a word, an impressive win.

There is an asterisk that must be mentioned here, and its an important one: Xavier was playing without their starting back court of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dezmine Wells, who were all suspended for their roles in the bench-clearing brawl that took place last weekend against Cincinnati. Holloway will be back against Long Beach State, while Lyons has one (and Wells three) more game to sit out.

Obviously, having those three in street clothes makes the Musketeers a completely different team. We're talking about 44.5 ppg, 8.5 apg, 12.2 rpg and almost 90 minutes of court time. That's a significant change to make in a limited amount of time, and judging Xavier's performance without them is fairly useless; so long as Holloway and company can avoid throwing hands with Dayton or Temple and stay healthy, Xavier will have their key players in the lineup down the stretch.

What it does tell us, however, is just how important Xavier's perimeter attack is to their team.

Simply put, the Musketeers don't have anyone who can create outside of Holloway and Lyons. Its not just for themselves, either. Part of the reason that Xavier's big men -- Kenny Frease, Travis Taylor, Andre Walker -- and their shooters -- Brad Redford, Justin Martin -- have been successful this season is that they have Holloway and Lyons get them the ball in a position to score.

Xavier's reliance on those two is a bit worrisome. While they are one of the best back courts in the country when they are playing well, what happens in the game they get into foul trouble? What about the game where both players are out of rhythm? What if, heaven forbid, one of the two blows their acl out next month?

This loss only means so much for the Musketeers. It shouldn't drop them in the rankings all that much and it certainly shouldn't have too big of an affect on your opinion of this club.

But what it does do is show us just how small the margin of error is for this team.

Xavier doesn't have much depth at all on their perimeter

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