Harris leads No. 4 Xavier over MVSU 85-40
CINCINNATI (AP)—Zero turnovers in 10 minutes. A point a minute by Amber Harris. No. 4 Xavier has gotten the hang of the fast, finish-‘em-off start.
Harris extended her point-a-minute spurt by scoring 16 in the first half, and the Musketeers brushed aside another overmatched opponent with an 85-40 win over Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday.
The Musketeers (6-0) moved up to No. 4 this week, their highest ranking in school history, and backed it up by winning for the fourth time in eight days. The last three have been decided before the first timeout.
The 6-foot-5 Harris had 12 points in an opening 28-6 run. The Musketeers didn’t commit a turnover during the 10 minutes of domination, scoring on 14 of their first 18 possessions without a turnover.
“Starting the game, a lot of teams are gunning for us, so we have to be ready,” point guard Special Jennings said. “If we let them stick around, that’s when they start to make baskets. If we come out on top and show them there really isn’t much they can do, they kind of give up and that makes it easier on us.”
Xavier opened the second half with a 20-2 run that pushed it to 60-18, then substituted freely down the stretch. Harris played the first six minutes of the second half, then went to the bench and put on her warmup jacket.
“We just come out and try to do what we do,” Harris said. “As coach says, we should have a consistent pace throughout the whole year. We want to play hard no matter who we’re playing. We just come out being aggressive.”
Xavier has won 26 of 27 since last season, the only loss by a basket to Stanford in the NCAA regional finals. Harris returned for one more season to try to get the Musketeers to their first Final Four. During the last four games, the versatile forward has scored 83 points in only 86 minutes.
“She’s had a great offseason,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “She’s been terrific mentally and physically. I think she’s even going to continue to get better, but she’s playing really well right now.”
Ka’Neshia Smith scored 14 points for MVSU (1-4), which was coming off a 45-point loss to Texas Tech on Tuesday.
Center Ta’Shia Phillips had 13 points and 15 rebounds in 26 minutes. Ten Musketeers played at least 10 minutes as McGuff got his reserves—especially his freshmen—a lot of playing time for the third straight game against an overmatched team.
“I think we’ve seen some growth from our young people,” McGuff said. “Ultimately as we move through the season, I think this stretch is going to help us be a deeper team.”
Xavier played its third straight game without Katie Rutan, its top 3-point shooter. Rutan landed awkwardly and hurt her left ankle in a 12-point win over Louisville a week earlier. McGuff thought she might be back on Tuesday, but she watched from the bench wearing a boot again. Xavier’s next game is Thursday against Southern California.
“She’s still got some soreness,” McGuff said. “I was hopeful that she might play today, but I’d say it’s day-to-day and I don’t know for Thursday what her status will be.”