Harris leads No. 5 Xavier over Louisville 71-59
CINCINNATI (AP)—Tired of watching Amber Harris settle for jump shots, Xavier coach Kevin McGuff called a timeout and bluntly delivered his message.
The fabulous forward listened.
Harris had a season-high 28 points and a career-high 18 rebounds Tuesday night, pulling the fifth-ranked Musketeers out of their early doldrums to a 71-59 victory over Louisville in their home opener.
Xavier (3-0) trailed by 11 during a sluggish first half against the young and energized Cardinals (3-2), who frustrated the Musketeers with their fast-break offense and tight man-to-man defense. McGuff called a timeout and immediately went up to Harris, who had only one basket at the time.
“He just wanted me to attack and stop settling for the jumper, the fade-away,” said Harris, who finished 11 of 17 from the field. “He said, ‘Start going to the basket.’ That’s pretty much my strong game.”
Harris responded immediately. The slashing 6-foot-5 forward had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the opening half, keeping Xavier close. She scored six points, and point guard Special Jennings hit a pair of 3s during a 19-3 run that put Xavier in control early in the second half.
Monique Reid scored 20 for the Cardinals, who start a freshman and two sophomores. Louisville fell to 0-2 against ranked teams, along with a 63-50 loss to No. 4 Tennessee.
The Cardinals had no one who could keep up with Harris, who also had to lead the Musketeers on the boards because center Ta’Shia Phillips was limited by fouls and played only 20 minutes before fouling out.
“She’s fantastic,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “She’s unbelievable. Next to (Connecticut’s) Maya Moore, she’s the best player in the country.”
Xavier played its first home game after road wins over South Carolina and Michigan, part of a tough nonconference schedule designed to toughen the Musketeers for tournament time. In the first half on Tuesday, they were tentative and trailing.
Louisville has jumped out to early leads in all of its games, outscoring opponents 49-10 in the opening four minutes. The Cardinals did it again, pulling ahead 7-2 and pushing the lead to 23-12. McGuff called a timeout during the run and went directly to Harris.
“She’s got to play with more of a sense of urgency,” McGuff said. “She’s such a special player and she’s got to bring that consistently. Once she started playing, she was pretty good tonight.
“I have such high expectations for her and think she can be even better than what she was tonight and more consistent. Once she got going, she certainly altered the game.”
The one-sided talk worked. Harris started asserting herself, hitting two driving layups and a fastbreak basket that cut it to 23-20.
In the first half, Xavier got little from anyone else. Jennings and guard Tyeasha Moss were a combined 2 of 14. Katie Rutan, Xavier’s top 3-point shooter, missed her only attempt from behind the arc.
Rutan’s 3 from the right corner—her only one in the game—tied it at 31 to start the second half. Jennings hit a 3 and Harris scored off a baseline drive for a 36-33 lead, starting the decisive run. Xavier’s lead reached 15 points and was never in jeopardy.
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