All the three players could do was sit and watch one of the worst moments in Xavier’s recent history.
Dominique Morrison scored 19 points Sunday, leading Oral Roberts to a 64-42 victory over previously unbeaten Xavier, which couldn’t do much with three of its starters sitting on the bench because of suspensions.
The eighth-ranked Musketeers (8-1) didn’t have point guard Tu Holloway, shooting guard Mark Lyons or freshman forward Dez Wells, who account for 40 percent of their points. The trio was suspended for a brawl eight days earlier against crosstown rival Cincinnati.
The players began paying the price on Sunday — their first loss of the season.
”We just weren’t ourselves today on both offense and defense,” coach Chris Mack said.
The depleted lineup couldn’t get in sync or keep up with the experienced Golden Eagles (8-4), who start three seniors and two juniors and knew they had a good opportunity with Xavier so short-handed.
”Full-strength it might have been a different game, but they weren’t here to play so we don’t know,” Morrison said. ”We can’t control what happened last week. We could only control what happened on the court today.”
They were fully in control after the opening minutes.
Travis Taylor scored 11 points for Xavier, which lost for only the second time in the past 46 games at the Cintas Center. It was the Musketeers’ worst loss at Cintas, which opened for the 2000-01 season, and their worst home loss overall since an 80-49 defeat to La Salle on Jan. 23, 2000, at Cincinnati Gardens.
Xavier had the week off since its 76-53 win over Cincinnati on the Musketeers’ home court. The game was called with 9.4 seconds left when a brawl broke out. Each team suspended four players.
Holloway, one of the nation’s top point guards, got a one-game suspension for instigating the brawl with his trash talking. Lyons got two games and will also miss Xavier’s opening game against Long Beach State in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii on Thursday.
Wells got a four-game suspension, along with walk-on Landen Amos. They were all in street clothes on the bench for the game. Holloway was the last one out of the locker room, walking slowly across the court by himself in a yellow button-down shirt.
Mack went to midcourt and spoke for 55 seconds before the player introductions, wanting to address the fans directly.
”We were all embarrassed by our behavior last weekend,” he told the crowd of 9,678. ”It’s extremely disappointing and in no way was a representation of what our university and our basketball program is all about.”
Junior guard Brad Redford and freshman point guard Dee Davis made their first career starts for the Musketeers, who were missing their top two scorers in Holloway (17.6 points) and Lyons (17.4). Davis had 10 points, Redford two.
Xavier center Kenny Frease played with a prominent cut and bruise below his left eye, caused by a punch from Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates during the brawl. Frease needed seven stitches. He finished with four points on 2 of 9 shooting.
”A lot of things broke down,” Frease said. ”It wasn’t just one thing that they did better than us.”
Frease had Xavier’s first field goal, a bank shot that fueled a 5-1 opening spurt against Oral Roberts, which was coming off a 67-61 loss at Gonzaga on Thursday night. The Golden Eagles then patiently took advantage of the Musketeers’ inexperience on the court in every way.
”Well, it was a tough week for our program, even tougher today,” Mack said. ”It’s disappointing. From tough times, tough people last, and we certainly have to get better and improve. Some of the reserves on our team didn’t play particularly well, and I didn’t coach particularly well.”
Damen Bell-Holter got open under the basket for two uncontested layups during a 12-0 run that put the Golden Eagles ahead to stay, 16-7. Xavier missed seven of its first 10 shots and couldn’t get into a flow offensively without its top two ball handlers.
The defense was a problem, too, with Golden Eagles getting wide open.
”As a team, we didn’t step up to the challenge of guarding every play like it was the last play we’d ever play,” Xavier forward Andre Walker said. ”They didn’t do anything differently. Our defensive coverage would break down, one guy wasn’t sure what the other would do. Then we were just frazzled for the rest of the game.”
Warren Niles hit a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper during a 10-point run that pushed it to 31-14. Xavier shot only 36 percent from the field and had 12 turnovers in the half, which ended with the Golden Eagles up 36-19 – Xavier’s lowest-scoring first half in more than a year.
Xavier never got closer than 16 points in the second half, with the lead getting as high as 30 points.