Raymond, No. 19 Xavier top Saint Louis, 66-47
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP)—Some typically stingy defense—and one unlikely shot — helped No. 19 Xavier reach the Atlantic 10 championship semifinals Thursday.
B.J. Raymond had 18 points to lead the top-seeded Musketeers to a 66-47 victory over Saint Louis in the A-10 quarterfinals.
He made a 30-footer at the first-half buzzer to help swing the momentum, capping a 7-0 run that sent Xavier into the locker room with a 35-25 lead.
“I knew there were two seconds on the clock and I didn’t have to rush,” Raymond said. “I just wanted to make sure I got a good look.”
C.J. Anderson added 15 points and Jason Love had 10 for top-seeded Xavier (25-6, 13-4), which reached the A-10 semifinals for the eighth straight year. The Musketeers meet fourth-seeded Temple on Friday night.
Kevin Lisch had 13 points to lead the ninth-seeded Billikens (18-14, 8-9), and Willie Reed added 10.
St. Louis had its fourth-lowest scoring output of the season.
“The identity of our team is tough-minded defense and when we can get stops and hold teams to the point total we held Saint Louis, we have proven we’re capable of beating anybody,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “When we’re away from that identity, we can win some and lose some. Today, we played the way we need to play and the way we have for a good portion of the season.”
The Musketeers carried the positive feeling out of the locker room, scoring seven more in a row to start the second half up 42-25.
St. Louis never got closer than 14 the rest of the way.
“Xavier is an outstanding team. They’re really good,” Billikens coach Rick Majerus said. “They’re deep, athletic, strong, veteran … they just flat-out beat us and I think they’ll do well and go deep in the NCAA tournament.”
First, though, Xavier would like to take care of business in the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Musketeers, like this year, were the tournament’s top seed in the previous two seasons. But they didn’t even reach the championship game either time.
Miller believes four regular-season losses in the last month will help the Musketeers toward their first A-10 tournament title since 2004.
“That helps our attitude as we approach tournament play,” he said of losses to Duquesne, Dayton, Charlotte and Richmond. “When we’re not at our best, anyone can beat us.”
“The past couple of years we were doing so good coming in that we took it for granted,” Anderson said. “This year we feel different and we want to make sure we give our best effort. It would mean a lot to us as seniors to cut down the nets in the regular season and postseason.”