No. 16 Xavier beats George Washington 71-53

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CINCINNATI (AP)—C.J. Anderson didn’t even take a shot in the first half, when Xavier’s perimeter game was more than enough. After halftime, he went back to threading his way through defenders and scoring.

Anderson scored 14 points in the second half, leading five players in double figures, and the 16th-ranked Musketeers rolled to a 71-53 victory Sunday that moved them back into first place in the Atlantic 10.

“That was an important game for this team,” Anderson said. “Coach (Sean) Miller wanted us as seniors to play better and set the tone. I didn’t play well in the first half, but I came back and played better in the second half.”

The Musketeers (22-5, 10-3) steadied themselves after yet another road loss and moved a half-game ahead of No. 25 Dayton for the conference lead. Ranked for the first time this season, the Flyers lost at Saint Louis 57-49 on Saturday night.

There were more immediate concerns for the Musketeers, who had lost three of their last four games, all on the road. They needed to rebuild confidence fast. George Washington (8-16, 2-10) was the perfect matchup.

Damian Hollis scored 15 points for the Colonials, who fell behind 26-8 and trailed by as many as 25 points. George Washington shot 38.6 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers.

“We wanted to get back to the basics, and we did a good job,” said B.J. Raymond, who had 12 points. “We played about 30 minutes of good defense. That’s a step in the right direction.”

Xavier plays at Saint Joseph’s on Thursday, then has a week off to prepare for its home-court rematch with Dayton, which has lost its last 23 games in Cincinnati. Xavier has won the last two regular-season titles.

The Musketeers’ recent struggles have underscored their need for a dependable point guard. Terrell Holloway has regressed lately, playing like the true freshman he is. Holloway has passed up open shots on the perimeter and repeatedly gotten shots swatted away on drives to the basket, contributing little to Xavier’s halfcourt offense.

The slump prompted Miller to make a switch at the position, moving shooting guard Dante Jackson into the role. In the last three games, Holloway had come off the bench and gone 1-for-14 from the field with two points, two assists and three turnovers.

With 7-foot reserve center Kenny Frease also limited by a sprained ankle, Xavier’s offense has taken a hit.

It didn’t much matter against George Washington, which was so focused on limiting Xavier’s bigger front line that it let the conference’s best 3-point shooters get open behind the arc. Xavier made six 3s while taking a 26-8 lead, the last one by Holloway from the right corner. Holloway finished with three points on 1-of-4 shooting and two assists.

Colonials coach Karl Hobbs stayed in his crouch, staring blankly at the opposite end of the court, while his players gathered behind him during a timeout with 10:25 left in the first half. At that point, what’s left for a coach to say? Xavier’s versatility was too much.

“They’re always going to have four guys on the court who are capable of scoring 18 to 20 points on any given night,” Hobbs said. “The thing I like about them is they all have their roles and they know what they are.”

George Washington was coming off its biggest win of the season, 90-62 over St. Bonaventure. Rob Diggs scored a season-high 26 points in that one. Playing a ranked team for the first time this season, the Colonials fell apart. Diggs went 1-for-5 with two points and four fouls.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Geo. Washington
Damian Hollis Damian Hollis
4-6,  15 Pts
8 Rebs, 1 Assists
 Xavier
Dante Jackson Dante Jackson
4-6,  11 Pts
3 Rebs, 3 Assists

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Points
Rebounds
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Sunday, Feb 22