"Instant Karma's gonna get you, gonna knock you right on the head you better get yourself together Pretty soon you're gonna be dead."
Karma seems to have gotten the better of Xavier lately. While Karma is not really a Catholic concept, it is taken from Buddhism and Hinduism; there is a similar theory that can be derived from Matthew 26:52.
"Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
After an 8-0 start, the Crosstown "Knockout" seems to have changed things around Cintas Center. The Musketeers were a mediocre 5-6 after the brawl entering Wednesday night's game against Atlantic 10 foe Saint Louis. Xavier hasn't been playing with the usual swagger or passion that was usually seen from the team. "We have to get (the fire) back. It's not an option," Xavier coach Chris Mack said in a pregame interview. Mack even made two changes to his usual starting lineup after Saturday's loss to I-75 rival Dayton.
But there is a delicate balance between passion and fire, and cockiness and bad sportsmanship. Surely you can play hard without talking about how "we got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room. Not thugs, but tough guys on the court," as Tu Holloway described his teammates after the Cincinnati game.
Even the students were asked to find that balance. Embarrassed by the conduct of the students at the Crosstown Shootout, Xavier students were asked to attend a "reflection session" or they would not be allowed to attend future basketball games this season. The administration eventually backed down on making the session mandatory, but the message had been sent.
Saint Louis has been flying under the radar this season. The Billikens were 15-4 entering the game, with Red Line Upsets over Washington, Boston College, Villanova and Oklahoma. With a RPI in the top 50, Rick Majerus's squad certainly has hopes of making the dance in March.
There seemed to be a Glee/Sing-Off theme to the game's entertainment. The national anthem was performed by Harmon-X, the male a cappella group on campus. At halftime, to help promote the upcoming World Choir Games in Cincinnati this summer, the Loveland High School show choir, some 45 members strong, not including the 15-piece band providing the music, performed a three-song set.
The crowd was pretty late arriving due to rain that was snarling up traffic on the interstates. It was truly weather you hate, but are thankful for. Another five degrees cooler, and the rain would have been ice or six inches of snow. Saint Louis took advantage of the flat crowd and got off to a quick start. Rob Loe took some time off from breaking Peyton Manning retirement news on twitter (oh, sorry, wrong Rob Lowe) to give the Billikens a 9-4 lead by assisting on Kwamain Mitchell's three-pointer and making two superhoops of his own.
Coach Mack was not happy with the early effort of his team, and the frustration seemed to get to him. Unable to be as demonstrative as he usually may be because of a knee injury he sustained during a practice at Fordham that required surgery, Mack was left to sit in his chair a majority of the time instead of his usual crouch. A seemingly minor incident in front of the Xavier bench about a possible travelling violation by Saint Louis resulted in a couple of quick words to an official and an even quicker technical foul call on Mack.
The Billiken offense is fun to watch. No player seems to hold the ball for more than three seconds and there are a lot of screen and rolls and cuts through the lane. Out of 22 Saint Louis field goals, 18 would be assisted on the evening. Saint Louis maintained its lead through the first half and by halftime had extended the lead to 41-29.
Xavier went to its usual starting lineup to start the second half and it paid off. Mark Lyons, one of the usual starters that started on the bench, seemed to get the message. Lyons would score 11 points in a three minute span to chip away the Billiken lead to four. Three of those four baskets were three-pointers, which brings about a verbal barrage from the Cintas Center PA announcer.
It's not that he's that loud. It's that he's the least concise public address announcer in the history of basketball. What can be said in four words can take him 10 or more. A sample superhoop call can go like this: "Three-point field goal, three-point field goal, number 10 Mark Lyons! Lyons from Robinson for Xavier." By the time he's finished, the other team is already across the mid-court line.
Xavier would manage to tie the game once with a pair of Holloway free-throws, but they could never take the lead. Having forced the Musketeers to respect the deep threat with seven three-pointers, Saint Louis could now exploit the lane with Brian Conklin. Conklin would either score or get fouled, where he was a solid 7-9 at the line. The lead would hover between three and five points for the rest of the game. Xavier would get a basket, but would be answered at the other end by Saint Louis.
Lyons had one more chance to cut the Billiken lead to one possession with 11 seconds left. But the three-pointer fell way short, failing to draw iron and went out of bounds. On the inbounds play, Saint Louis found Loe at midcourt, with nothing but open floor between him and the basket.
With only a five point lead, absolutely no one would have blamed Loe for dribbling to the hoop and to paraphrase Holloway, "zipping up Xavier" with an exclamation point dunk to end the game. After all, Xavier had only lost four games in Cintas Center in the previous four years, including a 43-game winning streak against Atlantic 10 foes. Instead, he dribbled to the corner, and when a Xavier player came within fouling distance, passed the ball to a teammate who managed to dribble out the clock. The Billikens had defeated the Musketeers, but gave them the "thumbs up" and granted Xavier missio for a well-fought battle.
With performances like that, It looks like the Billikens will all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun, into March.
SAINT LOUIS 73, at XAVIER 68 01/25/2012
SAINT LOUIS 16-4 (4-2) -- R. Loe 5-12 1-2 14; K. Mitchell 3-7 2-4 9; J. Jett 3-7 5-6 11; D. Evans 2-4 1-1 5; B. Conklin 6-10 7-9 19; M. McCall 0-2 4-4 4; C. Ellis 3-7 2-2 11; K. Cassity 0-2 0-0 0; C. Remekun 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 22-28 73. XAVIER 13-7 (4-3) -- T. Holloway 4-11 14-14 22; J. Robinson 4-7 2-2 10; M. Lyons 7-12 8-8 27; D. Wells 0-3 0-0 0; A. Walker 0-2 1-2 1; K. Frease 1-3 2-4 4; J. Martin 0-2 2-2 2; B. Redford 0-1 0-0 0; T. Taylor 1-1 0-0 2; D. Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-42 29-32 68.
Three-point goals: SLU 7-21 (K. Mitchell 1-4; K. Cassity 0-2; C. Ellis 3-6; R. Loe 3-9), XU 5-13 (T. Holloway 0-3; M. Lyons 5-6; B. Redford 0-1; J. Martin 0-2; D. Wells 0-1); Rebounds: SLU 26 (R. Loe 8), XU 26 (J. Robinson 6); Assists: SLU 18 (K. Mitchell 7), XU 11 (T. Holloway 5); Total Fouls -- SLU 23, XU 22; Fouled Out: SLU-J. Jett; XU-None.