As Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons go, so goes Xavier.
The eighth-ranked Musketeers learned that the hard way Sunday, suffering their first loss of the season at home to Oral Roberts with their entire starting backcourt suspended. A solid ORU team came to town and ran away with a 64-42 win, controlling things from start to finish.
Holloway (17.6 ppg, 4.9 apg, 3.9 rpg, 2.4 spg) and Lyons (17.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.9 apg) have combined to form arguably the nation's best backcourt to this point in the season, and 6-foot-4 freshman wing Dez Wells has been a strong contributor so far, averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. All three sat on Sunday as punishment for their roles in — and cryptic comments after — the team's ugly brawl with Cincinnati last Saturday. And Xavier's lack of reliable depth on the perimeter behind them showed.
Holloway, an All-American candidate and one of college basketball's true clutch performers, will be back in uniform on Thursday when Xavier takes on Long Beach State. Lyons will have to sit another game while Wells and little-used reserve Landon Amos still have to sit three more.
Without its entire starting perimeter, Xavier was relatively punchless, shooting just 32.7 percent from the floor, hitting only 1 of 11 3-point attempts and committing 17 turnovers across from 11 assists.
Junior Brad Redford and freshman Dee Davis started in the backcourt, with neither having played 22 minutes in a game all season. On Sunday, they combined to play 69. Monmouth transfer Travis Taylor deserved a bit of praise for his performance in place of Wells, with 11 points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes, but he was also responsible for five of the team's giveaways.
It was a team that played with no rhythm and, when it fell down 36-19 after the half, clearly didn't have enough firepower to mount a comeback like the dramatic charge it had two weeks ago against Purdue in a 66-63 home win.
Adding a bit of salt to the wound was the fact that, with three of its own players suspended following the brawl, Cincinnati responded in its first game back with a 20-point blowout on the road of Wright State earlier in the week. That was followed up with the Bearcats putting up 101 points on Radford on Saturday.
It's far from a crippling loss for the Musketeers, whose non-conference résumé is already very impressive, and it will turn out being a minor blip on the radar once Holloway and Lyons are back in time for A-10 play to start.
But Sunday will likely send a message to Xavier's stars that if they slip up and let their ugly sides show again, their teammates will have trouble dealing with the consequences.
Follow Ryan Greene on Twitter: @ryanmgreene
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