No. 10 Xavier beats UMass 82-80
CINCINNATI (AP)—When No. 10 Xavier needed a basket, a free throw or a rebound with the clock running down, its top three veterans got every one.
Derrick Brown matched his career high with 23 points Saturday, and the Musketeers made all the important plays in the closing minutes, holding on for an 82-80 victory over Massachusetts that extended their winning streak to 10 games.
B.J. Raymond added 22 points and C.J. Anderson had 19 for the Musketeers (19-2, 7-0), who remained unbeaten atop the Atlantic 10. This one was in doubt down to the final rebound. Anderson got that one off Chris Lowe’s purposely missed free throw with 3 seconds left.
Those three Musketeers made all the difference.
Brown, Raymond and Anderson went a combined 24-of-34 from the field, scored 64 of Xavier’s 82 points, and had 19 of its 37 rebounds, including that last, decisive one.
“All three guys on the same night had one of the best performances of their careers,” coach Sean Miller said. “They did it when it came to crunch time. We needed something superlative from them in order for us to win.”
Massachusetts (7-12, 2-4) set a pedal-to-the-metal pace and kept it close by forcing Xavier into a season-high 23 turnovers, but couldn’t break through in the closing minutes. Ricky Harris led the Minutemen with 17 points.
All four of their conference losses have been by less than 10 points.
“We’ve had too many of those,” said Luke Bonner, one of four UMass players in double figures with 14 points. “We had a chance to do it. It didn’t happen. It’s heartbreaking. It’s tough to talk about moral victories at this point in the season.”
Xavier suffered a setback when freshman point guard Terrell Holloway hurt his left foot in a pileup midway through the first half. It’s the same foot that developed a stress fracture earlier in the season, and Holloway favored it the rest of the game.
Miller said Holloway would go for precautionary X-rays.
“He didn’t look the same,” Miller said. “We hope he can get through it.”
The shot clock rarely came into play in a fast-paced game of catch the ball and shoot—a pace that suits UMass but not the Musketeers.
The Minutemen stayed in the game by exploiting Xavier’s biggest weakness—a propensity for sloppy passes. Xavier led by 10 in the first half, but UMass scored three straight baskets off turnovers early in the second half. Lowe had a steal and layup that tied it at 58 with 11 minutes left, setting up a pressure-filled finish—the kind that Xavier knows and loves.
“That’s the best situation to be in because we’ve been there before,” Brown said.
There were three ties and six lead changes down the stretch, with neither team ahead by more than three points until the final minute. Raymond’s 3 and Anderson’s putback put Xavier ahead to stay, 78-74 with 53 seconds left.
Harris responded with a 3-pointer, then missed another one with 10 seconds to go that would have given the Minutemen a lead.
“I think if Ricky hits that shot, they would have been down,” Lowe said. “We had a chance. We have to learn to close games out.”
Raymond got the rebound off Harris’ miss, was fouled and made both free throws for an 80-77 lead. Brown then added two free throws.
Rather than let Lowe try to take a 3-pointer that could tie it, Xavier fouled him with 3 seconds left. He made the first free throw and, after a timeout, missed the second, hoping UMass could get a tying putback. The ball was slapped around and Anderson came down with it. He threw the ball the length of the court as the buzzer sounded, keeping Xavier perfect in league play.
“Every game is going to be tough,” said Raymond, who was 4-of-7 from behind the arc. “We’re going to take everybody’s best shot.”
The points piled up fast in the first half. UMass hit nine of its first 13 shots, while Xavier went 9-of-14. It didn’t take either team long to find an open shot and make it.
Xavier’s player with the can’t-miss touch temporarily took over the game.
Brown had a game this season when he didn’t miss, going 6-for-6 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free-throw line in a win over Saint Louis on Jan. 8. He made his first eight shots on Saturday, including a three-point play that made it 41-31, the biggest lead of the game. Xavier shot 68 percent in the first half against one of the conference’s worst perimeter defenses.