CINCINNATI (AP)—On a ragged night, No. 15 Xavier managed to keep its balance.
C.J. Anderson scored 16 points in Xavier’s versatile offense Saturday, and the 15th-ranked Musketeers overcame a sometimes sloppy performance for a 75-62 victory over La Salle, one that followed their formula.
“Nobody cares who scores,” said Anderson, one of six players in double figures. “It’s usually like that. At the end of the game, we can have five or six in double figures, or one or two. It doesn’t matter. That’s why we’re so together as a team.”
Xavier (18-4, 6-1) has won 10 of 11 and leads the Atlantic 10 because it does things well. On an off-night, the Musketeers had to do a little bit of everything to pull one out. Besides the scoring balance, Xavier drew fouls and went 22-of-29 from the line.
“We felt we didn’t play our best,” said Derrick Brown, who finished with 11.
Rodney Green scored 18 points for La Salle (8-12, 3-4), which is 4-20 against the Musketeers in Atlantic 10 play. Forward Jerrell Williams added 16 points, but fouled out with 4:52 to go.
“They have a lot of good players,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “The balance is the natural outcome of having a lot of good players who play as unselfishly as they do.”
La Salle leads the conference in 3-point accuracy, and was coming off a game in which it had the touch. The Explorers made 16 3-pointers in an 84-61 win over St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, scoring their first 27 points from behind the arc.
The Musketeers were determined not to let it happen again. In the opening minutes, it did anyway.
La Salle worked for open shots and hit them, going 8-of-12 from the field and 3-for-3 from behind the arc while pulling ahead 20-16. After a timeout and an impassioned speech by coach Sean Miller, one of the conference’s top defenses dug in.
“La Salle’s style is problematic at times for us,” Miller said. “They really post up their guards. That makes them difficult to stop.
“It was just a hard-fought conference win. We’ll take it, be better for it and move on.”
Xavier went on a 17-4 run made possible by its defense and its point guard. La Salle was only 1-of-8 with four turnovers during the spurt, which put Xavier up 33-24 with 4:02 left in the half.
Drew Lavender got it rolling. With the shot clock winding down, he hit a 3-pointer over a defender’s outstretched arm, then stole the ball and drove the length of the floor for a layup. He also pulled up for a fastbreak 3-pointer during the run.
In addition, Lavender helped to guard La Salle’s Darnell Harris, who leads the Explorers at 19.3 points per game and was coming off a flawless performance. Harris, the conference’s top 3-point shooter, was 7-for-7 from behind the arc in the win over St. Bonaventure.
He hardly got an open shot on Saturday, going 2-of-9 for four points. Stanley Burrell, Xavier’s best perimeter defender, chased him around the court for most of the game.
“Darnell Harris played, I thought, a very good game,” Giannini said. “The defense they played on him—Burrell in particular—was amazing.”
Up 37-30 at halftime, Xavier turned to its balance to open up the lead. Six different players scored as the Musketeers pulled ahead 50-37. La Salle had a setback when Williams, leading the team with 15 points at the time, picked up his fourth foul on a charge with 11:51 to go.
Xavier got into foul troubles of its own—center Jason Love and Anderson picked up their fourth within a 23-second span. That evened things up and gave La Salle a chance.
Yves Mekongo Mbala made a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws that cut it to 59-55. Xavier’s B.J. Raymond, who missed his first seven shots, ended the comeback with a 3-pointer, and the Musketeers put it away with another clutch play by Lavender.
The 5-foot-7 guard got a rebound, drove the length of the floor and passed to Brown for a dunk. Brown was fouled and completed the three-point play for a 70-60 lead with 2:10 to go.