Musketeers Snare Hawks, 68-54
Feb. 26, 2009
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Back on the road for the first time since its clunker of a loss at Charlotte, Derrick Brown noticed a change in No. 19 Xavier's attitude.
"We got our road nastiness back," he said.
One thing that hasn't changed for the Musketeers is having another Atlantic 10 title in sight.
Brown had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and B.J Raymond scored 18 points to lead Xavier past skidding Saint Joseph's 68-54 on Thursday night.
"We were just trying to get it back in time and I think we're in the right direction," said Brown, who reached the 1,000-point mark for his Xavier career.
The Musketeers (23-5, 11-3) led almost the entire game and pulled away from the mistake-prone Hawks over the last 4 minutes to strengthen their spot at the top of the A-10 standings.
La Salle's upset over Temple (9-4) opens the door for Xavier to win its third straight regular season conference title with two games left.
"It says a lot (of our players) and our program," coach Sean Miller said.
Ahmad Nivins scored 24 points for the Hawks, who lost their fifth straight game. Saint Joseph's (14-13, 7-6) played without point guard Tasheed Carr (13.0 ppg), who sat out because of a concussion suffered Tuesday in practice.
The Hawks are on their longest streak under coach Phil Martelli since they dropped nine straight in 1998-99.
"The flaws have been there all year long," Martelli said.
The Musketeers appear to have put their stunning five-point loss at Charlotte behind them.
Miller laughed at Brown's remark, and explained there was a simple definition to playing "nasty."
"What he means deeper into that, is just being ready," Miller said. "Being the team that looks the same whether we play at home or on the road."
Brown and Anderson found their touch in the second half to make up for some sloppy play that let the Hawks whittle a double-digit lead down to six.
Brown put away the Hawks with two huge dunks that shook the rim and silenced the Palestra. Brown, who went over the 1,000-point mark, helped give Xavier a 56-44 lead and it would go up to 20 with steady trips to the free-throw line.
Maybe Carr would have steadied the Hawks and cut down the careless possessions. When Raymond buried a 3-pointer with 11:25 left to give Xavier a 50-36 lead, the Hawks had more turnovers (13) than field goals (11).
The final numbers were just as ugly: 19 turnovers and 17-for-46 shooting from the field. Xavier grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, led by Brown's five.
Still, the Hawks had a shot through the first 30 minutes.
Garrett Williamson and Darrin Govens scored consecutive baskets, only to watch that single-digit deficit go back to 10 on Brown's fall-down jumper.
That was it for the Hawks.
"You either hit first, or you get the hell beat of you and we got the hell beat of us on the backboards," Martelli said.
Saint Joseph's bounced Xavier in last year's A-10 tournament semifinals and will need another upset to return to the NCAA tournament.
The Hawks were in prime position to threaten for their second straight at-large bid, and were even in the hunt the A-10 title, after a 7-0 January where they outscored the opposition by an average of 10 points per game.
"We were winning in January, and when the situation came up and we had to make a winning play, we did," Martelli said. "We haven't made a winning play in a couple of weeks."
That sizzling streak seems about as far as way as their early season trip to Maui. Saint Joseph's went 2-7 in February and will need to double that win total at the conference tournament in Atlantic City, N.J. to have any shot at a bid.
The Hawks were fortunate to only trail by five at halftime. They were dreadful from every corner of the court and missed 12 of their first 15 shots.
They were in the game because of a sizable edge from the free-throw line (9-for-10 to Xavier's 1-for-3).