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Xavier snaps Memphis' 18-game winning streak

The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- With eight scholarship players on its opening day roster, Xavier has been playing short-handed throughout this season. On Tuesday night the Musketeers also were without injured starting point guard Dee Davis, and playing against No. 19 Memphis, which owned the nation's longest road winning streak.

But despite blowing a 13-point lead in the second half, XU got just what it needed from largely a collection of role players in a 64-62 victory at Cintas Center which ended Memphis' 18-game winning streak.

"Watching Memphis on tape, they're a scary team," said Xavier coach Chris Mack. "But they weren't themselves tonight. And I think we had a lot to do with that. I'm proud of our kids. We're not the most talented group. But we scratch and claw."

Travis Taylor scored 18 points and Isaiah Philmore, making his first start in nearly two months, added 15 for Xavier (16-11), which avoided its first two-game home losing streak since the 2005-06 season coming off a loss Saturday to VCU.

Memphis (24-4) lost for the first time since Dec. 15 against Louisville. The loss also snapped the Tigers' seven-game road winning streak.

Freshman Semaj Christon added 13 points for Xavier which also was playing without Landon Amos, a junior walk-on who contributes nearly eight minutes per game off the bench, due to a groin injury. As a result, Philmore was asked to handle the ball more against Memphis' press.

"We've had guys playing out of position most of the season," said XU guard Brad Redford, who scored 10 points including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:46 left. "We collectively came together tonight. It was important for us to stick together. This one feels good."

Geron Johnson led Memphis with 14 points. Joe Jackson added 11.

Chris Crawford, who scored 10 points for Memphis, missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer with 23 seconds left.

Redford hit a pair of free throws which appeared to ice the victory with 14.4 seconds left. But the Tigers still had a chance, trailing by two points with Stephens at the line with 0.7 seconds left. Stephens hit the first free throw. But his intentionally-missed second attempt did not hit the rim, giving possession back to Xavier to end it.

Memphis trailed by 11 points at halftime but fought back early in the second half with consecutive dunks by Stephens. The Tigers then struggled to contain Taylor whose follow-up slam gave XU a 37-26 lead.

Memphis hit five of six 3-pointers, including three by Johnson, to take its first lead, 50-49 with 6:25 left.

It was the second straight game that Xavier watched a double-digit lead evaporate in the second half. The Musketeers blew a 17-point lead in Saturday's loss to Virginia Commonwealth, but on Tuesday made enough winning plays at the end.

"We talked in the huddle about not having that same bad feeling we had after VCU," said Philmore.

Without Davis, Xavier needed offensive contributions from several players. And it was Taylor who asserted himself early on, scoring 11 of Xavier's first 14 points.

He was 5-of-9 shooting with seven rebounds before picking up his second foul with 8:16 left and remaining on the bench for the rest of the first half.

The Musketeers outrebounded Memphis 26-15 in the first half Tuesday.

Redford's 3-pointer put XU ahead 19-10. Then consecutive baskets by Philmore made the score 25-15.

"I think at times Xavier is harder to guard with Redford in the game," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner. "Give Xavier credit. They kicked our butts in the first half, for sure."

Xavier, which committed 22 turnovers in Saturday's loss to VCU, had just five in the first half Tuesday despite playing without Davis, its best ball-handler.

Memphis shot 33-percent in the first half and went scoreless for more than six minutes while the Musketeers built as much as a 12-point lead.

"I told the team, eighteen games in a row is a long streak, but losing stinks," said Pastner. "We need to find a way to get win number 25 in a hurry. We need to snap out of it. I wish we were playing tomorrow."

NOTES: Davis did not play Tuesday. He still was feeling the effects of a head-to-head collision with 13:35 remaining in Saturday's loss to VCU. Davis is expected to return for Saturday's game against UMass. ... Xavier junior forward Isaiah Philmore made his first start since Jan. 2 at Wake Forest. ... Tuesday's game was Memphis' latest regular season non-conference game since Mar. 2, 1994 when the Tigers hosted Southeast Missouri. ... Tigers coach Josh Pastner remained one victory shy of 100 for his career.
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