There is no doubt that the Xavier Musketeers have one of the best backcourt tandems in the country with Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, and the duo combined on Monday night to provide more evidence in the affirmative. Despite shooting a combined 13-for-38 from the field Holloway and Lyons scored 43 points for the Musketeers, with Lyons knocking down the game-tying shot with 6.5 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. From there it was the "Tu Holloway Show:, with the All-American scoring ten of his team-high 24 points in the extra session.
Holloway's two three-pointers during what would become a 12-0 run gave Xavier a 74-66 lead with 2:27 remaining. Vanderbilt could only manage four points in overtime, squandering a second half in which they shot 56.5% from the field. John Jenkins led three Vanderbilt starters in double figures with 20 points while Lance Goulbourne and Jeffery Taylor added 18 apiece, but Kevin Stallings turned the ball over 18 times and Xavier took full advantage with a 22-8 split in points off turnovers.
"They were very costly," said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings of the turnovers. "Turnovers are generally careless or selfish. Neither of those has anything to do with the other team."
In addition to the points off turnovers discrepancy there was also the matter of Xavier out-rebounding Vanderbilt 54-33. Andre Walker, who transferred to Xavier from Vanderbilt after graduating in the spring, grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds and six other Musketeers grabbed at least four caroms. Xavier grabbed an astonishing 25 offensive rebounds, and while they held a comparatively small 15-9 edge in second-chance points that number takes a toll as the game wears on. Would the presence of Festus Ezeli have helped Vanderbilt in this regard? Possibly but he won't be back for a couple more weeks, meaning that the guys able to play need to step up.
Another problem for Vanderbilt: perimeter defense. Entrusting Jenkins and Brad Tinsley to stop opposing guards in general, much less guards the caliber of Holloway and Lyons, isn't the best move at this point in time. Can they be solid defenders down the road? That's a tough question to answer with a 'yes' or 'no', but if the Commodores want to hang around in March longer than they have in recent years they'd better improve. Monday night however was more about what Xavier did, especially on the glass given the fact that outside of Kenny Frease the Musketeers don't have a true big man. If players such as Walker, Travis Taylor and Jeff Robinson can continue their work on the boards look out. At the very least Xavier will compete for every inch of space on the floor, a trait that will serve them well as the season wears on.
"I am proud of our kids," said Xavier head coach Chris Mack. "It is their first game on the road in a very hostile environment. To have 25 offensive rebounds shows how badly our kids wanted it...Our players won this; it has nothing to do with coaching."
Other Notable Happenings
1. Minnesota gets the news they feared on Sunday regarding forward Trevor Mbakwe.
There was much concern amongst members of the Minnesota basketball program on Sunday night following their loss to Dayton regarding the health of senior forward Trevor Mbakwe. Mbakwe went down in the second half with an injury to his right knee, and things did not look good at the time. Those fears were confirmed on Monday as an MRI revealed a torn ACL, ending Mbakwe's season and possibly his career at Minnesota. Mbakwe is Minnesota's leading scorer and rebounder on the season, and losing him leaves a significant hole in the Golden Gopher rotation.
What's this mean? Ralph Sampson III, who has dealt with a sprained ankle for much of the early going, and Rodney Williams need to step up. Williams is healthy but has been quiet as well, and Mbakwe's injury also highlights the impact of Colton Iverson transferring to Colorado State. Tubby Smith will be light on frontcourt depth, but he may be able to get away with playing small provided Sampson III and Williams do a good job of avoiding foul trouble. Is Minnesota's season over with the loss of Mbakwe? Even though it's a major blow, the answer is entirely up to the remaining players.
2. Saint Mary's withstands a great performance from Damian Lillard to beat Weber State.
Outside of Xavier's trip to Vanderbilt the best matchup of the night took place in Moraga, California with an expected contender in the WCC (Saint Mary's) hosting the preseason favorite in the Big Sky (Weber State). The game certainly didn't disappoint either, with Weber State going into the half with a 32-31 lead. But Matthew Dellavedova and the rest of the Gaels got things rolling in the second half, shooting 69% from the field and scoring 56 points in what would end up being an 87-70 win. Dellavedova established a new career high with 11 assists to go along with 25 points while Rob Jones put up a double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
Kenton Walker II added 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for Saint Mary's, who improved to 4-1 on the season. Damian Lillard led the way for the Wildcats with 36 points and Kyle Tresnak added 17 (but made just three of ten free throws), but while Weber State shot 53% from the field in the second half it was no match for the hot Gaels. Another key was the three-point shooting, with Saint Mary's making eight of thirteen and outscoring Weber State by 15 points in this category. Expect to hear more from both teams as the season wears on.
3. Oakland retires Keith Benson's number and beats Tennessee.
It was a special night in Rochester, Michigan with the Oakland program retiring the jersey of former center Keith Benson at halftime of their game against Tennessee. The game also provided Greg Kampe's program with the rare chance to host a team from a BCS AQ conference on their home floor, and thanks to large part to guard Reggie Hamilton the Golden Grizzlies took advantage. Hamilton scored a game-high 35 points in leading Oakland to the 89-81 win over the Volunteers while Drew Valentine led four other Golden Grizzlies in double figures with 15, and Corey Petros grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
The difference ultimately was the bench, and specifically Laval Lucas-Perry, who score 14 of Oakland's 19 bench points (Tennessee had just nine bench points). After dropping their first two games of the season (to Alabama and Arkansas), the Golden Grizzlies have won four straight. Life without Benson and Larry Wright certainly isn't (and won't be) easy, but the Golden Grizzlies showed on Monday night that they've got enough talent back to remain a factor in the Summit League.
1. After a 1-2 Maui Invitational that featured some shoddy defensive play, Memphis limited Jackson State to 32% shooting in their 70-45 win. Offensively Joe Jackson scored 15 points and Chris Crawford 14 to lead the Tigers.
2. Few teams will be able to live to tell the story of running with Iona, who beat Long Island 100-84 in New Rochelle. When you have a point guard the caliber of senior Scott Machado it's easy to get out in lanes and run, and few teams have a point guard as good as Machado.
3. Joe Mihalich may not have the most experienced team, but Niagara is definitely a team that won't lie down. For the second time this season the Purple Eagles came back from an 18-point, first half deficit as they beat Saint Francis (PA) 65-63.
4. Andre Roberson scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in Colorado's 70-68 win over Georgia in Boulder. Roberson is a good athlete with a high motor, which helps make up for the lack of refined skills in his game. As that part of his game improves, look for Roberson to be a major player in the Pac-12.
5. Louisville used their pressure early to get to Long Beach State, leading by as many as 15 points in their 79-66 home victory. Long Beach State turned the ball over 21 times on the night, and Chris Smith led five Cardinals in double figures with 18 points.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Reggie Hamilton (Oakland)
35 points, six rebounds and three assists in the Grizzlies' 89-81 win over Tennessee.
2. G Matthew Dellavedova and F Rob Jones (Saint Mary's)
Dellavedova scored 25 points and dished out 11 assists while Jones posted 24 and 12 rebounds, offsetting 36 points from Damian Lillard in the Gaels' 87-70 win over Weber State.
3. G Bradley Beal (Florida)
22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in the Gators' 96-70 win over Stetson, Billy Donovan's 450th as a head coach.