ST. LOUIS (AP)—Derrick Brown’s buzzer-beating tip-in gave No. 13 Xavier the perfect ending to a frustrating experience.
Brown’s putback with 0.1 seconds to go allowed the Musketeers to barely avoid a second-half meltdown and overcome last-minute heroics by Saint Louis’ Kevin Lisch in a 70-68 victory on Thursday night.
“Obviously we leave here knowing full well we’re fortunate,” coach Sean Miller said. “He almost singlehandedly beat us down the stretch.”
Josh Duncan led a balanced attack with 15 points for Xavier (19-4, 7-1 Atlantic 10), which squandered all of a 16-point cushion against the persistent Billikens. Drew Lavender added 13 points and three others scored in double figures for Xavier, which has won five in a row and 11 of 12.
Lisch had three 3-pointers and a three-point play in the final minute, and his driving layup and free throw with 11.6 seconds to go tied it at 68. Lisch was a career-best 6-for-9 from 3-point range and scored 25 points for Saint Louis, which also got 11 points from Luke Meyer and 10 from Tommie Liddell III.
“Our guys don’t give up,” Lisch said. “We never feel like we’re out of the game. while there’s time left on the clock you might as well play hard.
“I felt like we could have pulled it out there in the end.”
Brown, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, tipped in a missed shot by a driving Lavender just ahead of the buzzer. Miller wanted the ball in the hands of his 5-7 point guard on the final play, knowing that Lavender could also create openings for other players.
“It makes a lot of sense to put the ball in Drew Lavender’s hands,” Miller said. “So many times late in a game, you win on the second shot.”
Saint Louis forward Luke Meyer left the 6-8 Brown to contest Lavender’s layup attempt, and that left 5-9 Billikens point guard Dwayne Polk mismatched against Brown on the rebound.
“They switched, so I knew I had an advantage,” Brown said. “I tried to move him out of the way and use my athletic ability.”
Saint Louis led only once after Barry Eberhardt’s 3 for a 13-12 lead with 12:18 to go in the first half. Eberhardt was 2-for-2 from 3-point range and is 7-for-13 on the year after hitting another from long range during Saint Louis’ comeback.
Xavier held Saint to 27-percent shooting, forcing three air balls by Liddell, while taking a 35-22 lead at the break. It’s the Billikens’ worst showing for a half outside of a horrid 14.6-percent showing, the NCAA’s worst in the shot clock era, in a 49-20 loss at George Washington Jan. 10.
Saint Louis shot 53 percent in the second half to make it close.
“We kind of got lazy,” said Stanley Burrell, who had 12 points. “You do that against a good team, they’re going to pick you apart.
“We’ve just got to finish better.”
Saint Louis has lost three conference games at home, two in overtime and one on a last-second shot.
“I thought our guys played with great heart and determination,” coach Rick Majerus said. “It’s frustrating to be that close.”
Duncan and C.J. Anderson, who finished with 11 points, each had two baskets in a 10-0 run that put the Musketeers in control at 29-15 with just over 4 minutes to go. Duncan hit his first four shots and had 13 points in the half, while Lavender hit his first three shots and had eight points.
Anderson, who played his first two seasons at Manhattan, topped 1,000 career points on his first basket. He’s the third player on the team to do it, joining Burrell and Lavender, and Duncan needs six points for 1,000.