CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—The senior lockdown defender was in foul trouble. The speedy senior point guard was slowed by a sprained ankle.
No problem for experienced Xavier. Enter another senior, Josh Duncan, to help the 12th-ranked Musketeers survive their third straight close call.
Duncan matched a career high with 25 points and hit the clinching 3-pointer with 15.9 seconds left as Xavier beat Charlotte 62-60 on Wednesday night for its seventh straight win.
Overcoming Stanley Burrell’s foul trouble and a scoreless, seven-turnover night from the hobbled Drew Lavender, Duncan became the latest Musketeer to step up in the clutch.
Xavier (21-4, 9-1 Atlantic 10) needed big plays in the final minute to beat Saint Louis and Saint Joseph’s last week. They did it again against Charlotte (14-9, 5-4) despite 31 points from the 49ers’ Leemire Goldwire.
“It’s not anything magical. We not only have seniors but we have guys who in their senior year who have been through the wars,” coach Sean Miller said. “They have been through these games and lost. They’ve been in the (NCAA) tournament. … They’re the heart and soul of what we do.”
With the shot clock winding down, Duncan drilled a 3 from the top of the key to put the Musketeers ahead 62-58. After Goldwire’s hoop with .7 seconds left, Goldwire stole the inbounds pass near midcourt, but his desperation shot didn’t hit iron.
“It was a pretty even basketball game,” Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said. “They just rebounded it better and made a few more plays down the stretch.”
Xavier kept its two-game lead in the conference despite 23 turnovers, and rare subpar games from Burrell and Lavender.
Burrell had four fouls a minute into the second half and was limited to 22 minutes.
Lavender turned his left ankle late in the first half. While he continued to play, he was 0-for-5 from the field.
“I can’t really say that he played bad because a lot of guys wouldn’t have continued to play,” Miller said. “But he didn’t have that extra gear that he does have.”
A physical game full of fouls, contested shots and turnovers, the Musketeers turned to a zone defense to snap a tie midway through the second half. Charlotte missed nine straight shots in Xavier’s 7-0 run that made it 57-50 with 5:20 left.
Then the Musketeers’ biggest problem of the night—turnovers—let Charlotte back in it. Xavier threw it away three times and had a shot blocked on four straight possessions.
Charles Dewhurst’s two free throws with 2:10 left tied it at 58.
The 49ers thought they had taken the lead on Goldwire’s driving layup with 1:30 left. Two officials blew their whistles, and after a two-second delay where both officials stared at each other, an offensive foul was called.
“I was confused and was very hopeful it would go our way,” Miller said. “It did go our way and clearly that was a big call. It was a game full of tough calls.”
C.J. Anderson then made one of two free throws with 1:02 left to put Xavier ahead.
After Charlotte’s Phil Jones missed a shot in the lane, Duncan drilled his fifth 3 in as many attempts.
Duncan finished 7-of-7 from the field and added eight rebounds. Derrick Brown added 11 points.
“I knew with Stanley in foul trouble I had to do more,” Duncan said.
Charlotte, which won at Clemson last month, nearly pulled off its second win against a ranked team behind Goldwire’s one-man show.
Goldwire was 7-of-15 from 3-point range and added eight rebounds in his conference-leading fifth game of 30 or more points. The rest of the team shot a combined 9-for-38 as Charlotte struggled against Xavier’s zone.
“It made it tough for us to get the ball inside,” Goldwire said.
Goldwire, who was coming off a 39-point performance in a win over St. Bonaventure on Saturday, matched up against Burrell, one of the league’s top defenders.
But Burrell had three fouls 10 minutes into the game, and Goldwire took advantage by hitting four 3s with Burrell on the bench.
“It’s frustrating,” Burrell said. “I did so much homework on (Goldwire).”
Burrell picked up his fourth foul when he bumped Goldwire on a 3-point attempt with 18:57 left. Goldwire hit all three free throws to put Charlotte ahead 37-34.
“The point I make is, when North Carolina plays at Virginia and they win by two, it’s like `That’s life in the ACC,”’ Miller said. “Well in our conference this season, we have great depth and we have some real quality teams. Charlotte is one of them.”