Tag: Semaj Christon

St Johns Xavier Basketball

Xavier’s Semaj Christon bypasses final two years, declares for the 2014 draft

1 Comment

Xavier guard Semaj Christon significantly improved his game during this past offseason. Known as the sophomore leap, Christon became a better finisher around the rim, and started to develop his perimeter skills, unveiling a burgeoning jumpshot. According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, coach Chris Mack received just two years to refine Christon’s skillset: the guard will declare for the 2014 NBA draft.

Mack and Company have the requisite depth to handle Christon’s absence; Dee Davis should return for his final season, and should the incoming roster remain stagnant, the extra minutes will benefit Brandon Randolph and Edmond Sumner. What Xavier will miss without Christon is the element of aggressiveness that the sophomore imbued on the squad; Christon was one of the nation’s best at getting into the lane and drawing fouls.

MOREThe entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft

The loss of Christon, though, has consequences that extend well past Cincinnati — the Big East simply continues to take hits. Buzz Williams left Marquette for Virginia Tech, Mack’s name has been whispered for the opening at Wake Forest, JaKarr Sampson similarly declared for the professional ranks, and now Christon’s announcement. The conference might be entering the realm where it is high major only in the eyes of those who still remember the sweater game and Rip Hamilton. It has endured knocks that have severely diminished its reputation as a premier league.

Improved defensive effort helps Xavier snap three-game skid

Leave a comment

With No. 6 Villanova and No. 12 Creighton not only headed to the NCAA tournament but in the process of fighting to earn protected (top four) seeds, the Big East has at least two teams who will hear their names called on Selection Sunday. The question at this juncture in the season is who else will be able to earn a trip, with Providence and Xavier being two of the teams in consideration.

That made their meeting in Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon one of high importance, with the winner taking over sole possession of third place in the conference standings. And if Xavier was to defend its home floor and end a three-game losing streak, the Musketeers had to defend better than they did in the first meeting. In Providence’s 81-72 win on January 25 the Friars shot 64% from the field in the second half, with Bryce Cotton scoring 25 points and dishing out seven assists (no turnovers) and LaDontae Henton adding 23 points and 11 rebounds.

Given the importance of Cotton to the Providence attack he’s clearly the player teams need to slow down in order to beat Providence, and that was the primary goal for Xavier in the rematch. And thanks in large part to Semaj Christon, who wasn’t asked to defend Cotton much in the first meeting, the Musketeers were able to accomplish that goal.

Christon limited Cotton (seven assists, three turnovers) to nine points on 4-for-11 shooting and forced two critical turnovers down the stretch as Xavier beat the Friars 59-53. An exciting athlete who can score from just about anywhere on the floor while also setting up his teammates, Christon also has the length needed to be a pest on the defensive end and that attribute was critical in the defending of Cotton.

Providence was able to hang around, even leading for a significant portion of the first half, with Josh Fortune being the primary reason why. Fortune finished the game with 17 points, scoring 12 in the first 20 minutes, and if the Friars are to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid they need Fortune to be less deferential offensively. He doesn’t have to score at the level of a Cotton or Henton (14 points vs. Xavier) but the sophomore has to be a credible threat. And given how well Fortune can shoot the basketball, that means no longer passing up quality looks.

But in the second half Xavier performed better on both ends of the floor, limiting Providence to 32% shooting while turning the ball over just once after committing seven turnovers in the first half. With Christon leading the way on the perimeter and a front court with multiple options (Justin Martin and Matt Stainbrook scored 13 apiece on Saturday), Chris Mack’s team has the talent needed to return to the NCAA tournament after missing out a season ago.

But that will only happen if they defend consistently. An issue in the first meeting between these two teams, Xavier had no trouble doing so in the rematch. And as a result, the Musketeers find themselves in sole possession of third place in the Big East.

Xavier rebounds from sluggish first half to beat undermanned Georgetown

Leave a comment

Facing a Georgetown squad with just ten available scholarship players, Xavier seemed poised to get back on track after suffering their first Big East loss at Creighton on Sunday afternoon. But things didn’t work out that way in the game’s first 20 minutes, with the combination of Georgetown’s hot three-point shooting and Xavier’s lack of both effort and execution being the biggest factors.

The argument that a Georgetown team that entered the game shooting just 33% from beyond the arc wouldn’t duplicate its 63.6% first half could certainly be made, but that would only be the case if Chris Mack’s team showed greater effort defensively. And that’s exactly what happened, as the Musketeers outscored Georgetown 44-14 over the final 15 minutes to win 80-67 in Cincinnati.

What happened? Xavier got tougher on the defensive end, no longer allowing Georgetown to simply go through its movements with little or no resistance. As a team the Hoyas shot 37.5% in the second half and made just three three-pointers, with senior guard Markel Starks shooting 2-for-8 from the field. Also of note is the fact that the Hoyas committed twice as many turnovers in the second half (six) as they did in the first (three).

Offensively Xavier did a much better job of utilizing their balance (four players finished in double figures) and attacking after they spent much of the first half slowed down (and possibly even perplexed) by the Georgetown zone. Dee Davis scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and Semaj Christon added ten (18 for the game) for the Musketeers, who shot 57.7% from the field in the second half and scored 1.55 points per possession.

Xavier’s improved execution allowed them to finally take advantage of Georgetown’s lack of depth, pulling away to win by a margin that can lead some to forget how difficult the first half was.

In regards to Xavier’s hopes of contending for the Big East title the win was a big one, as they’ll play five of their next seven league games away from the Cintas Center. Back in October the expectation was that Xavier would be an improved basketball team, but few thought them capable of being a contender in their new league. If they execute at the level they did over the final 15 minutes on Wednesday night, the Musketeers are capable of doing so.